So D-Day has finally come. Its like a zoo here, what with thousands of journalists (2000 according to the Ministry of the Information) flown in from around the world, spread across every inch of Gaza, every settlement, refugee camp, border crossing, with sattelite link-up, internet, radio, you name it (aljazeera tv has a revolving 3-d model of the Gaza Strip, and have chosen THE weirdest '80s music for their special coverage theme). I can only imagine how different covering something like, say, the fall of the Berlin Wall was.
So far its been anti-climactic, but I'll admit, I couldn't help but stay up and watch the end of the Palestine Sattelie Channel ticker marking down the "days till liberation". Or the hoards of journalists and photographers that were massed at Kissufim crossing, waiting for the midnight, when the once golden settler-only gates would finally close for good (as my dad commented-its the first time a crossing has been closed for Israelis, as opposed to Palestinains..hah).
Of course I did my own reporting, but tried to steer clear of the news-hungry correspondents parachuted in for the occasion, all waiting in unison for the big moment, and for any observable moment at that.
I observd life around Gaza city, and also drove to the northern village of Siyafa, sandwiched between teh settlement triangle of Nisanit, Dugit, and Eli Sinai (Siyafa is Mawasi's lesser-known cousin so-to-speak).
Palestinians there prepared for what they were told would be a month long closure of their community, as they stockpiled food, water, and cooking gas, and waiting for Israeli approval to enter their fenced-in village. In the background, the soon-to-be evacuated red-roofed villas of Dugit were visible, amidst swathes of razed farmland. This area was once known for its lush strawberry fields. Looming overhead us was a tank and a camera operated by remote control, hooked to an observation room. Formerly this was a sniper tower that forbodingly overlooked the troubled village, which was dismanteled last week.
When I got too close to the gate of the village to take pictures and interview residents, a soldier shouted at me to back off or he would not let in any of the residents. They told me they dream of the the quickly approaching day when they will no longer have to wait in front of this gate, when they will be able to move freely in their own land. But still, they are anxious and uncertain what the future holds.
During the day in the rest of Gaza, life seemed normal, if not quieter than usual. Many Palestinians simply did not know what to expect, relying on satellite channels and radio stations to broadcast details of the withdrawal for them. This of course includes Palestinian Ministers (as Nabil Shaath said yesterday when asked by a fellow reporter about the D-gagement timeline-"I'm relying on Haaretz just like the rest of you").
In yet another (failed) attempt to boost PA popularity, Mohammad Dahalan and co. (withdrawal committee) organized a "street-cleaning" protest along the beach, though once again, he failed to show. It turned into more of a street-littering gathering, as roudy youth waving palestinian flags posed for the cameras.
At night, near midnight, sporadic protests erupted thoughout Gaza, and Palestinian mosques called on worshippers to come and pray a communal prayer of thanks.