Amidst the ongoing conflict, families faced challenges in rescuing trapped relatives and recovering remains due to the inherent dangers involved.

Palestinians who lost loved ones in the intense Israeli bombing of Gaza have been searching through rubble and destroyed streets to identify them before the ceasefire ends.

Since the truce came into effect last Friday, Gazans have had a narrow window in which to venture outside to find missing relatives or retrieve their bodies.

Negotiations to extend the ceasefire past its expiry on Friday morning are ongoing.

In many cases, the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli bombing campaigns were left out in the streets because it had been too dangerous to fetch them.

Ramez Abu Kmeil, a resident of Gaza City, told The Telegraph he ventured out once the ceasefire came into effect and found the remains of several people.

“After the truce, we found three bodies left on the street near Jawwal Cellular Company. The bodies were decomposing, we didn’t recognise them,” he said.

There was little he and his neighbours could do, except bury them immediately beside the road and hope that their relatives could eventually be tracked down and informed.

“Me and a group of residents of the area buried the bodies in the middle of the dirt road where we found them,” he said. “We took pictures of the bodies hoping their relatives would recognise them in the future from their clothes.”

Mr Kmeil said he chose not to venture further through Gaza City at the time because there were many Israeli tanks in the area.

“Israeli forces have hung posters on the walls reading ‘closed military zone’. The roads there are also blocked with sand barriers, nobody can arrive there,” he said.

Hasanat Mohamed Skeik, 36, spoke of how he and his neighbours in Rimal, Gaza City, had to dig through the rubble of their home with their hands after an Israeli airstrike on Nov 13.

At the time they managed to pull a number of wounded relatives and neighbours out of the debris.

“It took us a couple of hours to rescue the wounded. It was a difficult and fearful job. We pulled out those who were screaming and calling for help. There was no sign of any other alive people so we stopped searching. That was a horrible night.”

More recently they have gone back to try to find the others, which led to a horrific discovery.

“After the truce, family members pulled out 15 dead who were near the surface of the rubble and buried them in Al Batsh family graveyard in Shujaiyah. Five bodies are still under the rubble,” Mr Skeik said.

Constant explosions
Before the ceasefire came into effect, the death toll in Gaza stood at around 15,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The majority were killed by Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for the Oct 7 Hamas attacks, in which 1,200 Israelis were killed. More unaccounted-for bodies are likely buried under the rubble.

When the ceasefire does end, Palestinian civilians face a return to the near constant explosions of the first phase of the war.

Many have fled south from Gaza City, attempting to take refuge in overflowing shelters in Khan Younis and near the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

Conditions remain dire with minimal access to clean water, no electricity and severe overcrowding.

Nearly two months into the war, Gazans are still queueing for hours to buy dwindling supplies of bread from bakeries. And with winter approaching, the weather has turned wet, reducing access to solar power-systems commonly used to charge mobile phones.

Aid workers are fearful of the humanitarian crisis becoming worse once the ceasefire draws to a close.

“It shows what can be done, but we hugely fear what comes next if fighting restarts,” said James Deneslow, the head of Save the Children’s conflict team.

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