In the first grey light before the dawn Ahmed Talalka was already exhausted. The unemployed 20-year-old sprawled by a path in what, until hours before, had been the Jewish settlement of Netzarim, an Israeli enclave inserted hard against the southern outskirts of Gaza City.
"When I got here it was 12.30 and already there was no one, so we went straight to the synagogue and set it on fire," he said.
"It was an illegal building on our land. The Israeli Jews don't respect anyone's religion but their own. I am very happy. The Israelis are out of here. We have more land and we got rid of the roadblocks."
Stripped of furniture and holy materials, the building did not burn well so, as the sun rose over the Mediterranean, a Palestinian bulldozer began clawing at its walls. A camera's flash brought dozens of troops and police crowding round the culprit. (Apparently, in the topsy-turvy world of Gaza, the sun rises in the west. - EoZ)
"You can watch but you can't take pictures," warned a young army officer. (Notice that he is not a "policeman"! - EoZ)
"This place is a problem for us. They (the Israelis) want people to see us destroying it, so it will look bad for us."
A few kilometres to the south, crowds of Palestinians were busy scavenging the ruins of Kfar Darom, an outlying settlement poking like a finger into the flank of the Arab town of Deir el-Bala. (Here's is what the boundaries really were: -EoZ)
One of the few women present, Ma'soud Aud'allah, 65, was tugging a bent girder from the bulldozed wreckage of a settler home. She did not call it looting.
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