Immediately after the identity of the dead man became known, about half an hour after the Israeli aircraft hit Ahmed Jabari, panic-stricken residents of the Gaza Strip starting preparing for the worst. They gathered at gas stations to get gasoline and cooking gas, and at bakeries to make sure they had enough bread for the days to come. Some of them said over the phone that everyone was hurrying home while the Israel Defense Forces was bombing different sites in the Strip, and they could see that Israeli aircraft movement was brisk.
Some people said the Hamas police seemed confused and panicked, and armed men from various factions were firing in the air as a sign of mourning. The mosques were broadcasting eulogies and praise for Jabari.
As of Wednesday night at about 8 P.M., at least four Palestinian civilians had been killed in the Israeli air raids, among them a 7-year-old girl and a baby a few months old, according to Palestinian reports. About 55 people had been injured, eight of them seriously. The hospitals went on emergency footing, and the Economics Ministry in Gaza warned merchants against price-gouging.
The assassination came as residents were preparing for a long, quiet weekend. November 15 is a day off for two reasons: It marks the Palestinian independence day declared by Yasser Arafat in 1988, and the Muslim New Year falls this year on that date. Schools were to have been closed in any case.
Over the past week the IDF, as of Wednesday morning, had killed six Palestinian civilians, among them three children. Fifty-three people were injured, including 12 children and six women. Gaza residents who are not Hamas supporters said that in closed conversations and on the social media there had been criticism of Palestinian rocket fire and questions as to whether it had been necessary. Nevertheless, everyone accepts the position that the shooting came in response to Israeli aggression.
People in Gaza say they believe that the Israeli attack will be a unifying factor backing the Hamas government. Opponents of Hamas in the Strip say that the escalation suits the political aims of both Hamas and Israel: It dwarfs the importance of the PLO initiative to bring to a vote the Palestinian bid for observer status in the United Nations.