How grim are things in Gaza? Even the prospect of a four-day cease fire brings little enthusiasm. The New York Times quotes Bisan Owda, who has been documenting the war on social media, “This period is not enough to pull the dead bodies from under the rubble and bury them, to search for the missing people, to open the roads, to treat the injured.”

It doesn’t allow for any of the million northern Gazans who’ve been relocated to the south to return home:

“I want to go home,” Hind Khoudary, a freelance journalist who stayed behind to document the war after her family evacuated from the strip, said on Instagram. A temporary pause “without going home is meaningless,” she added.

Not that they are likely to have homes anymore, as roughly half the housing in the Strip has been damaged or destroyed, and a far higher percentage than that in the north.

“There’s a little bit of relief,” Ahmed Nassar, a 27-year-old taxi driver, said in a phone interview, adding that he hoped the deal would not fall through. “God willing, at midnight we will see it.”

…Mr. Nassar, who fled his northern Gaza neighborhood of Jabaliya and is now living in the central part of the strip, said the deal raised the prospect that a longer cease-fire could come in the next few weeks, which could allow his family to go back and check on their home.

Here’s what Mr. Nasser’s neighborhood looked like several weeks ago.

The Israeli army announced on Tuesday that they had “completed the encirclement of the city of Jabaliya, and [were] ready to deepen the fighting as they sought to take control of one of the last major Hamas strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip.” There’s not going to be anything for Mr. Nasser and his family to go home to.

But one day, the Israelis will be done destroying northern Gaza and there will be a big clean up problem. A million people will be looking for their things. They’ll be looking to excavate all the collapsed buildings so they can properly bury their family members. They won’t accept everything just being bulldozed.

It took America eight months, working 24 hours a day to clean up the World Trade Center after 9/11. Fortunately, very little of that tragic site had residential housing. There was no foreign occupying force interfering and looking to explore the tunnels underneath. The rescue crews had the best equipment available.

And let’s not overlook that the south of Gaza is next. It is already heavily damaged but will soon be pulverized like the north. And, this time, there won’t be any place left to run.

I hope the four-day truce comes about and results in the release of all the Israeli women and children being held hostage. I hope it leads to the release of all the hostages. But I can’t understand how Israel can extricate itself from what it has done. Where are the Gazans going to live? How are they going to live? Who will clean up? How will the dead be respected? Who will rebuild? Who will govern?

When Bashir al-Assad destroyed Syria, 70 percent of the population became refugees. Most of the Gazans were already refugees, and they’re not allowed to flee. Egypt is determined not to take them. Europe is already facing a right-wing backlash because of the Syrian refugees.

I understand the Middle East mindset about deterrence, but this is about more than preventing a recurrence of the unconscionable October 7 attacks from Hamas. This is a Humpty Dumpty situation.

And, as far as I can tell, no one has any idea what is supposed to happen next.

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