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TEL AVIV, Israel -- While a clear majority of Israelis favor the 72-hour cease-fire with Hamas, frustration with another inconclusive war is dividing the country along familiar political lines. The right believes the army should have stayed in Gaza and finished off Hamas. The left is happy the fighting is over, reluctant to lose more Israeli lives.
But according to a poll in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, more than 50 percent approve of the way government and army leaders handled the war. This, despite an Israel Defense Forces bombing campaign that killed far more civilians than militants and drew international condemnation from rights groups.
On a personal level, Israelis are glad to get their lives back. Shuli Schneider, who lives in the Yad Mordechai kibbutz just one mile from Gaza, said that the local swimming pool opened Thursday for the first time since the war began on July 8.
“For the children, that means quiet,” she said. “But at night I’m still looking at the shadows.” Earlier, she had told NBC News that she lived in fear of terrorists emerging from tunnels to attack her family. Many of the people who fled the Gaza border kibbutzim during the war have returned, she said. “For us, the cease-fire means we can carry on with our lives again.”
That is echoed by Hedva and David Segal from the northern village of Tuval, whose son returned home Wednesday night from Gaza, where he served in a secret unit. “What a relief,” Hedva said, echoing the thoughts of so many Israelis whose children went to war as 86,000 reservists were called up to join the standing army. For Hedva, the truce means she need no longer worry.
But for many the cease-fire came too soon. “We should've finished them [Hamas] off,” Max Zweig, a retired financial analyst said. “All they understand is force and we need to show them we are stronger, much, much stronger.”
It’s outside that the biggest change is felt. Beaches are already filling up, cafes are full, and the government has told Israelis that gatherings of more than 300 people, banned during the war, are now permitted.