When you drive along the Salah Eldin road and pass by the middle Gaza Strip refugee camp of Alburaij, on the eastern side of the road which has been closed by the Israeli occupation over the past five years, you read a poster on a store at the Alburaij entrance, saying in Arabic: “the Withdrawal is a Day of Victory, Lets Celebrate It “.

The poster, signed by the largest Palestinian faction (Fatah), seems to have addressed the Salalah Eldin road exclusively and is still unheard by the population of this refugee camp as the road is the only one celebrating such a ‘victory’; a plenty of Palestinian vehicles are now traveling on the road that has been reopened by the Palestinians right after the Israeli troops withdrawal on September 12.

Lets celebrate the withdrawal, an invitation that has thus far not accepted by the ‘freed Gazans’, even in the day of withdrawal itself; the various Palestinian areas ran a very normal life with no features of popular celebrations yet, although 38 years of military occupation have already come to an end ‘physically’. 

At any rate, while doing a routine job in the southern parts of the Gaza Strip right after the withdrawal, and as a journalist and translator escorting Alex, a journalist from the Netherlands, Palestinians from that area, Rafah, were flowing in very large numbers into the sea shore, as if they were rushing for food, due to a famine. Israeli settlements have been used to enjoying the Rafah Sea exclusively.

Another feature of celebrations in Rafah was the overflow of Palestinians into the border line with Egypt, known as the Philadelphia route, attempting to cross the line to enjoy a day out in the nearby Egyptian town of Al’-Areesh. 

The scene of people jumping over the long border fence reflected how eager the Palestinians have been for moving freely without the restrictions that they have ever been used to. Hundreds of men, women and children were rushing pleasantly towards the wall, while several men were attempting to tear down the iron Israeli wall on the Salah Eldin gate using welding machines. 

A large number of men, women and children, were gathering in the border line, shouting, looking and talking to their relatives in the Egyptian side of the border, others were selling and purchasing many kinds of goods including cigarettes, which I myself bought from a Rafah boy who could manage to bring them from the Al-areesh town. 

The only genuine celebration both Alex and I observed through the tour in the southern settlements was actually in the Alma’ny Palestinian family house, just near to the Israeli Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, which was established on Palestinian-owned lands; some of which belonged to the Alma’ny family itself. 

The scene in the family reminded me with both the main Muslim feasts (Eid in Arabic) when family members exchange visits and greetings (Eid Mubarak) widely and merrily; these two occasions come right after two major Muslim events; the holy month of Ramadan and the Pilgrimage to Mecca. 

As we were interviewing the family about their reactions following the withdrawal from Kfar Darom, the first word everybody uttered was “it’s an Eid Day”. Actually it was for while we were talking, two big families , relative of the Alma’ny, stepped in the house merrily and started embracing the Ma’ny family members warmly , saying ‘congratulations on the evacuation of the settlers’. 

Celebrations on the streets of the Gaza Strip have been confined to merely some parades of a number of Palestinian resistance factions, which have been relentlessly involved in resistance against the horrible Israeli occupation throughout the past 38 years; the latest of which took place just on Sunday in the Gaza City by Hamas group. 

Apparently, the Palestinian population in the ‘freed Gaza Strip’ appear to be as skeptical as ever about the Israeli moves for many facts on the ground speak for themselves; border crossings are still closed, movement is still restricted, Israeli military is still in control of the land, sea and air, Palestinian prisoners are still behind the bars, the” twin” West Bank is still occupied with more illegal settlement activities and the Apartheid Wall is still being built. 

“Withdrawal is a Day of Victory, Lets Celebrate It” , a sign that will remain dead letters, unless the Israeli occupation withdraws completely from both people and lands of the occupied Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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