Fragile Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Holds

A Palestinian man was shot dead by Israel's armed forces Friday, but the details were in dispute. Despite the killing, the truce still stands.

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The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is only two days old, and already both sides claim it's been violated. At issue are the circumstances surrounding the killing today of a Palestinian by the Israeli military. NPR's Philip Reeves reports from Gaza City.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: It's early afternoon. Rain sweeps in from the sea. The potholed lanes of Gaza turn into rivers. In a mosque near the beach, Friday prayers are under way. Ismail Haniya is here. He's the political leader of Hamas in Gaza. When the cease-fire was announced Wednesday night, Gazans took to the streets to celebrate.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

REEVES: Prayers end, and the imam cranks up the triumphalist mood again.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

REEVES: Men line up to shake Haniya by the hand. He nods and smiles. Palestinian officials say more than 160 people were killed during Israel's eight-day military offensive. Hamas lost men, building, infrastructure and, say the Israelis, significant numbers of weapons. Its military commander in Gaza was assassinated, yet Hamas is striving to present itself as the victor.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

REEVES: Not far away, though, the mood is very different. I'm in a crowd of young men, hundreds of them, marching through the streets. And a few feet from me, they are carrying a body, that of a young man. It's swaddled in a green flag, a Hamas flag. It's on a stretcher. They are flourishing the flags of the Palestinian factions. They're carrying this young man to the mosque for his burial.

REEVES: The dead man is Anwar Qudiah. He was 20. Qudiah was in the southern end of the Gaza Strip when he was shot by Israel's armed forces. Israeli army says a crowd of Palestinians approached the fence sealing Gaza from Israel. Some tried to break through the fence, it says. Israeli soldiers unleashed warning shots. When these were ignored, they shot at the crowd's legs.

YOUSEF: (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: That's not how Qudiah's family tells the story. They say he and his relatives went to the area to check out their farmland. The land has lain fallow for years as it's within an Israeli-imposed no-go zone by the fence.

YOUSEF: (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: The crowd thought the cease-fire agreement allowed them to reclaim their land and grow crops close to the fence, explains Qudiah's cousin Yousef. The bullet that killed Qudiah hit him in the face, says another cousin, Ehad, who says he was there when it happened.

EHAD: (Through Translator) We were very happy about the cease-fire. That's why we went to see our lands today. But when we went there, Israelis shot him in cold blood.

REEVES: Qudiah's death will not end the cease-fire, but this is a fragile truce in a landscape flooded with distrust. Now, that distrust is deeper still. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Gaza.

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