US President Joe Biden pledged to help organise efforts to rebuild Gaza, adding the two state solution is the "only answer" to the conflict.

Palestinians walks past a building, destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Beit Hanun in northern Gaza on May 21, 2021.
Palestinians walks past a building, destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Beit Hanun in northern Gaza on May 21, 2021. (AFP)

Thousands of displaced Palestinians started returning to their bomb-shattered homes after a ceasefire took effect in the latest Gaza war, with many viewing it as a costly but clear victory for the Hamas resistance and Gaza's governors. 

The 11-day war left nearly 250 dead – the vast majority Palestinians – and brought widespread devastation to the already impoverished Hamas-governed Gaza. 

President Joe Biden on Friday pledged to help organise efforts to rebuild Gaza and said creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the "only answer" to the conflict.

Biden also said he had told the Israelis to stop "intercommunal fighting" in the flashpoint city of Jerusalem.

However he stressed "there is no shift in my commitment, commitment to the security of Israel" and added that until the region "unequivocally" acknowledges Israel's existence "there will be no peace."

But the rocket barrages that brought life to a standstill in much of Israel and its occupied areas were seen by many Palestinians as a bold response to Israeli abuses in occupied Jerusalem, the emotional heart of the conflict.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against further attacks, saying, "If Hamas thinks we will tolerate a drizzle of rockets, it is wrong." He vowed to respond with "a new level of force" against aggression anywhere in Israel.

Hamas is now being seen as the actual leader of the Palestinians, which is likely to have a huge impact on the future of peace talks with Israel, Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian academic and activist told TRT World.

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Israeli forces storm Al Aqsa

Friday's ceasefire faced an early test when Israeli forces stormed Al Aqsa Mosque compound again and engaged in pitched battles with the Palestinian protesters.

Police fired stun grenades and tear gas, and Palestinians hurled rocks in response after hundreds took part in a celebratory demonstration in which they waved Palestinian and Hamas flags and cheered the resistance group. 

Protesters also clashed with Israeli troops in parts of the occupied West Bank, which has seen violent demonstrations in recent days linked to occupied Jerusalem and blockaded Gaza.

Thousands took to the streets of Gaza as the ceasefire took hold at 2 am. Young men waved Palestinian and Hamas flags, passed out sweets, honked horns and set off fireworks. 

Celebrations also broke out overnight in occupied East Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank. Israel captured all three territories in the 1967 war and the Palestinians want them for their future state.

READ MORE: Palestine FM: Ceasefire ‘not enough’, Jerusalem occupation core issue

'It will not be the last war'

An open-air market in Gaza City that was closed throughout the war reopened and shoppers could be seen stocking up on fresh tomatoes, cabbage and watermelons. 

Workers in orange traffic vests swept up rubble from surrounding roads.

"Life will return, because this is not the first war, and it will not be the last war," said shop owner Ashraf Abu Mohammad. 

"The heart is in pain, there have been disasters, families wiped from the civil registry, and this saddens us. But this is our fate in this land, to remain patient."

There was little to celebrate in the hard-hit northern town of Beit Hanoun, where residents, many of whom had lost loved ones, surveyed wrecked homes.

"We see such huge destruction here, it's the first time in history we've seen this," said Azhar Nsair. "The ceasefire is for people who didn't suffer, who didn't lose their loved ones, whose homes were not bombed."

READ MORE: Ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian groups goes into effect in Gaza

Israel says was unable to halt rockets 

Like the three previous wars, the latest round of fighting ended inconclusively. Israel claimed it inflicted heavy damage on Hamas with hundreds of bruising air strikes but once again was unable to halt the rockets.

Hamas also claimed victory but faces the daunting challenge of rebuilding in a territory already suffering from high unemployment and a coronavirus outbreak.

Days of unrest at Al Aqsa during Islam's holy fasting month of Ramadan forced Hamas to demand Israeli forces vacate the compound by 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) on May 10 and stop expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

Hamas then fired rockets at Israel and its occupied areas when the deadline expired. Israel commenced a heavy aerial bombardment on Gaza, a small enclave blockaded by Tel Aviv since 2007 from land, air and sea. 

Palestinians have also become frustrated by setbacks to their aspirations for an independent state and an end to Israeli occupation in recent years.

There were calls from occupied West Bank for Hamas to act militarily, many analysts say. 

Gaza's rockets are mostly repurposed handmade weapons in comparison to Israel's military might which gets over $16 billion for defence spending and $3.8 billion from the US in annual funding.

At least 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children, with 1,910 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Twelve people were killed in Israel.

In Gaza, rescue workers were still recovering bodies from areas that had been too dangerous to enter. 

Five were collected on Friday in the southern town of Khan Younis, including that of a three-year-old, the Red Crescent emergency service said.

"We want to see the Palestinian people free and living in their own independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital," said Palestine's FM Riyad al Maliki following Gaza's ceasefire with Israel.

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Egypt-brokered truce 

The ceasefire was brokered by neighbouring Egypt after the US pressed Israel to wind down the offensive. 

On Friday, a delegation from Egyptian intelligence arrived in Gaza. 

A Palestinian source told Anadolu Agency that the Egyptian delegation entered Gaza via the Beit Hanoun crossing with Israel to meet with leaders from Hamas in order to follow up the ceasefire commitments.

The delegation is headed by Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, a top Egyptian intelligence officer responsible for Palestine.

The source did not say how long the delegation would stay in Gaza.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to visit the region "to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians." the State Department said.

Some 58,000 Palestinians sought shelter in crowded UN schools amid a coronavirus outbreak. Thousands returned to their homes as the truce took hold.

The fighting dealt another blow to the already decrepit infrastructure in Gaza. The small coastal territory, home to more than two million Palestinians, has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas assumed power from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, confining his authority to parts of the occupied West Bank.

The World Health Organization said 30 health facilities in Gaza were damaged, with one clinic destroyed and another with significant damage. An air strike damaged the only facility in Gaza processing coronavirus tests, forcing a halt to testing in the territory.

Fabrizio Carboni, regional director for the Near and Middle East at the International Committee of the Red Cross, estimated there were "several hundred" pieces of unexploded ordnance strewn in Gaza, adding that medical supplies were a pressing need.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies