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As the withdrawal continues, and aid flows, a town suffers anew.
JABAL EL KASHEF, Gaza — They were digging out from the rubble in this devastated hillside town on the Gaza-Israeli border when the shot rang out.
According to witnesses, Nasser Farah Nasserhad had gone down to work on his family's small orange grove nearby.
"He was cutting timber," Said Nasser, the dead man's cousin, said. "They shot him in the head. They shot him!"
Nasser referred to the gunman as a "sniper," and suspected him to have been an Israeli. "We didn't see him," he added.
In the aftermath of the Gaza conflict, as Israeli forces affect a full withdrawal pegged to the U.S. presidential inauguration, and the humanitarian workers and impartial observers — including, on Tuesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon — move in, few certainties exist.
Among them, however, is that the three weeks of violence caused widespread destruction and suffering.
According to the UN, the conflict claimed over 1,300 lives, 412 of them children, and wounded more than 5,300, 1,855 of them children.
The flow of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, has quickened since Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire late Saturday, and Hamas followed suit within hours. The 55,000 people who sought shelter in UNRWA schools had begun to return to their homes, the UN said.
And the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, said four crossing points into Gaza were open Tuesday, including the fuel transmission centre at Nahal Oz, though not nearly enough supplies were getting through, with more food needed as well as more fuel to power hospitals and bakeries.
Ban, visiting the UN Relief and Works Agency compound in the east that was bombed by Israel last week, said: “Everyone is smelling this bombing still. It is still burning. It is an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations.
“I am just appalled,” he said, adding that he would dispatch a humanitarian needs assessment team on Thursday led by Holmes.
"I have protested many times, and am today protesting in the strongest terms, and am condemning it. I have asked for a full investigation and to make those responsible people accountable.”
The Israel Air Force, meanwhile, bombed a target in the Gaza Strip used earlier in the day Palestinian militants to fire eight mortar shells at Israel, according to the prominent Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.
Militants also reportedly opened fire on Israel Defense Forces soldiers in Gaza in two separate incidents, in the first violation of the shaky truce in the coastal strip. No soldiers were wounded and troops returned fire in one of the incidents.
Earlier in the day, Ban met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to stress the importance of the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and the need for a sustainable end to the violence, the UN said.
He also met with Gazan civil society leaders who conveyed to him their concerns on the need for accountability by all sides in the recent fighting.
According to Reuters, Ban urged the Palestinians to patch up their political differences within the Palestinian Authority, ruled by Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.
"I appeal to Fatah, Hamas, to all Palestinian factions, to reunite within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority," Ban reportedly said, urging an end to a schism between Hamas in Gaza and Abbas in the West Bank that has paralyzed peace talks.
Thousands of Hamas supporters, meantime many waving green Islamist banners, marched through Gaza and held a rally outside the compound during Ban's visit.
Far away from the flow of aid and well-meaning diplomatic statements, however, towns like towns like Jabal el Kashef are left to pick up the pieces of 22 solid days of Israeli bombardment.
And the family of Nasser Farah Nasserhad are left to wonder why, days after the fighting was officially supposed to have ended, his life was snatched away.
Many of the trees in his family's orange grove had been overrun by Israeli tanks (Jabal El Kashef served as a staging point for the Israeli ground offensive), and Nasser had gone down with family members to clear the trunks and pick fruit from the remaining ones to sell at market.
He had been reaching into a tree to pick an orange, his cousin confirmed, when the shot rang out.
Minutes later, A pickup truck came hurtling up the battered, debris-strewn road, careening around slower vehicles, swiping pieces of rubble off to the side.
Four men stood in the bed of the truck, screaming and waving for people to move out of the way. But Nasser was dead before they could load him inside.
"I don't know why the Israelis would do this," cousin Nasser said, assuming the worst, although GlobalPost was unable to confirm whether the Israeli military was still operating in the area.
Though it was the first spat of violence in the town since the Israelis withdrew several days ago, Nasser's killing served as a reminder of just how fragile any truce here could be.
Townspeople continued Tuesday to pull bodies out of the rubble. "Yesterday they found a body. Today they did, too," said Ashraf Zein, a resident.
The Israeli offensive, people in the town say, will only serve to strengthen Hamas here.
"The people here, after the war," said Zain, a Fatah member, "will like Hamas more because people hate occupation."
Hamas, he said, "gave them food at the beginning."
"Hamas said it would help and give me money," added Ashraf Abu Warda, a cow farmer whose farm was destroyed in the conflict.
Whatever may become of Hamas and the ceasefire, Nasser's death serves as an abrupt reminder that the war and its memories have not yet begun to recede.