GAZA

Gazans' rebuilding woes: 'We live in rubble'

Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” this past summer left Gaza in shambles. A month and a half after the end of the fighting, our Observer there explains how daily life is more difficult than ever following the bombing of homes, schools, and infrastructure.

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Screen grab from video below, showing homes flattened by Israel's bombings in Gaza. 

Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” this past summer left Gaza in shambles. A month and a half after the end of the fighting, our Observer there explains how daily life is more difficult than ever following the bombing of homes, schools, and infrastructure.

According to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), about 80,000 homes were destroyed during the 50-day-long hostilities. One hundred and eighty-eight schools were damaged, of which 22 were entirely destroyed.

Gaza’s water infrastructure was also damaged, and its sole power plant was bombarded, leading to a sharp decrease in electrical supply.

The UN agency estimates that it would take 20 years to rebuild Gaza under the current blockade. Indeed, reconstruction is currently going at a snail’s pace.

This aerial video, shot in late August, shows the destruction wrought by bombings in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Al-Shejaiya. Video courtesy of Media Town.

“We often sit at home, in the dark, with nothing to do”

Mohammed Salam is a journalism student who lives in Gaza.

One of the biggest differences with life before last summer’s bombings is the amount of electricity we get. We used to get about 8 hours with electricity, then 8 hours without, and repeat. Now, we only get six hours out of 24. Very few people in Gaza have the means to buy a generator and the gas needed to run it. Many homes use backup electricity in the form of UPS batteries, but this is not nearly sufficient. It’s hard for students like myself to study. Not all neighbourhoods have electricity at the same time, so I try to go to friends’ houses to work. It’s also hard mentally – we often sit at home, in the dark, with no TV, and nothing to do.

We have always had problems with getting water, but it’s become even harder now that we have less electricity. In my neighbourhood, Nasser, we get a few hours every 4 days, and in others it’s every 7 days. Water only arrives when there's electricity, because pumps need to be powered to get water to people's homes. 

 

“Many people have returned to the ruins of their homes and are living in tents”

My family and I were lucky – our home wasn’t hit. Many of those who lost their homes went to live in shelters, located in former schoolhouses. But the conditions are so cramped and unsanitary there that lots of people are returning to the ruins of their homes and living in tents. In many cases, when one of their rooms is still standing, the women and girls will stay there, and the men will stay in tents outside.

In one neighbourhood, a nonprofit organisation set up 50 mobile homes for families to live in. But that’s the only sign of progress I’ve seen. No houses are being rebuilt. Even the families who have enough money to rebuild their homes can’t – the raw materials like cement simply aren’t available. Ever since the Egyptian revolution, many of the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt have closed, and so the materials are no longer getting smuggled in.

 

“Because schools were destroyed, there are now 60 or 65 students per class”

Education has also taken a big hit. Since many schools were destroyed, the students that used to attend those establishments have been sent to other schools. Classroom sizes, which were already big – on average 40 or 50 students per class – have jumped to 60 or 65 students per class. The number of hours each child goes to school has also decreased, because they need to teach the kids in shifts. I’m very worried about the long-term impact on the children’s learning.

People here have no hope. They don’t feel like they can count on anyone to help rebuild Gaza – be it the government, Arab nations, or international organisations. Young people like myself, who are neither affiliated with Hamas or Fatah, just want to leave Gaza, whether legally or illegally.

In this UNRWA video, nine-year-old Yasin shows damage at the school he used to attend in Khuza’a before the latest conflict.