It’s been a little under three weeks since the Gaza – Israel ceasefire. Children have gone back to school in a sombre mood and back to broken classrooms, schools that have been destroyed partially or in total and many families have gone back to homes that are just rubble, with many more hospitals, mosques and other buildings destroyed.
At least 65,000 people in the Gaza Strip are homeless after the recent seven-week conflict. Infrastructure ranging from water desalination centres to power plants lies in ruins.
The seven-year blockade on the Gaza Strip must end to enable reconstruction and a political solution must be found to resolve the conflict, a UN official said on Saturday.
“Huge swathes of Gaza have been levelled. We cannot rebuild it with our hands tied behind our backs,” said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
The Palestinian Authority said on Thursday that the process of rebuilding whole neighbourhoods and vital infrastructure would take “five years if Israel removed its blockade over Gaza entirely“.
“The attack on Gaza this time had no precedent, Gaza has been hit with a catastrophe and it needs immediate help,” Palestinian economist, Mohammed Shtayyeh, told the Reuters.
An international organisation involved in assessing post-conflict reconstruction says it will take 20 years for Gaza’s battered and neglected housing stock to be rebuilt following the war.
The assessment by Shelter Cluster, co-chaired by the U.N. refugee agency and the Red Cross, underscores the complexities involved in an overall reconstruction program for the Gaza Strip, which some Palestinian officials have estimated could cost almost $8 billion.
Any effort to rebuild Gaza will be hindered by a blockade imposed by Egypt and Israel.
Shelter Cluster’s 20-year assessment is based on the assumption that construction materials will be allowed into Gaza, as promised in the ceasefire. So far, locals say supplies have yet to arrive.
The below from a report produced by OCHA Occupied Palestinian Territories in collaboration with humanitarian partners.
Cost Of Rebuilding
Rebuilding Gaza will cost $7.8 billion (£4.7 billion), the Palestinian Authority said on Thursday, in the most comprehensive assessment yet of damage from the seven-week war with Israel. The ground incursion and bombing from the land, air and sea caused huge destruction in Gaza, during which whole neighbourhoods and vital infrastructure were flattened.
Rebuilding Gaza would depend heavily on foreign aid and would require an end to Palestinian rivalry and Israel opening its border crossings, said Mr Shtayyeh, who heads the Palestinian Economic Council for Research and Development (PECDAR)
The cost of rebuilding 17,000 Gazan homes razed by Israeli bombings would be $2.5 billion, the Authority said, and the energy sector needed $250 million after the Strip’s only power plant was destroyed by two Israeli missiles.
UN agencies and the Palestinian Authority are now working on a reconstruction plan which includes rebuilding water, sewerage facilities and electricity supplies.
We can get an idea of the severity of the destruction in Gaza from the video below by Media Town which shows aerial drone footage of Gaza before and after the 7 week assault – this really shows the level of destruction that the worst affected areas now face.
Media Town is a documentary film production and Media services Provider Company, based in Palestine.
The below clip shows the destruction in the Beit Hanoun area.
Progress since Ceasefire
In the 3 weeks since an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire took hold on August 26, little progress has been made in getting the rebuilding under way or settling the bitter political rifts around Gaza.
“If you want aid materials to be permitted to enter, they will almost inevitably come from Israeli sources,” an EU official said. “I don’t think you’ll find it written down anywhere in official policy, but when you get to negotiate with the Israelis, this is what happens. It increases construction and transaction costs, and is a political problem that has to be dealt with.”
As well as Israel’s security restrictions on aid, “it can be very difficult to export materials to Gaza,” the official said. “A lot of goods for a Gaza private sector reconstruction project we had, ended up being held in Ashdod port for very lengthy periods of time – months if not years – so there was de facto no alternative but to use Israeli sources.”
The source added that the policy had benefited Israel’s economy to the tune of millions of euros and was, in his view, deliberate.
Building materials such as steel and cement, necessary for the reconstruction of Gaza, have been designated by Israel as ‘dual use’ items – adaptable for munitions – that may only be imported to Gaza by the UN and aid agencies under Israeli supervision.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime ministers’ office, denied claims that Israel’s entry policy to Gaza prevented non-Israeli-made reconstruction materials from entering the Strip.
“I know that policy, and it is not true,” he told EurActiv over the phone from Jerusalem. He was unable though to give examples of non-Israeli reconstruction materials allowed into Gaza, referring inquiries on to Cogat.
Israel eased restrictions on imports of food and construction materials in 2010 following an international outcry over a botched Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla which was trying break the blockade, killing 10 Turks.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHAOPT) has just released a report detailing what the 50 day war has cost Gaza so far, including the death toll. The full 37 page report, published on the 27th August, can be found here – Gaza Initial Rapid Assessment.
Life in Gaza after the destruction
“It is enough. We are tired,” said Nasser Mohammed Al-Najjar, 62. “I lost my wife in the war. I lost my cousins and our homes have been turned into sand.”
It took years for Al-Najjar to build his home and now he, and six family members, are homeless, temporarily sleeping in a UN school. Al-Najjar used to work in Israel, but since 2000 when he was laid off from work, he has tried to live off his land, which was also damaged when bulldozers break into his neighbourhood, east of Khan Younis.
“No one cares about us,” he said.
In another UN school shelter in Khan Younis sits 42-year-old Rasem Abu-Zaed, 42. He had been living in Jordan for more than 15 years and working as a taxi driver which gave him enough money to feed his wife and four children. Then, Abu-Zaed decided to return to Gaza.
In Gaza, he said he has found freedom to express his views, but he has not found stability, nor security. Yet despite the knowledge that it could be 20 years before his family home is rebuilt – and that his one-year-old son, Musbah, will then be an adult – he said he does not want to return to Jordan.
“I felt something fishy the moment ceasefire was announced,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘Why would this work when Israel has the position of power to violate ceasefires?'”
Abu-Zaed said he and his family had heard the news from international bodies that it will take 20 years to rebuild Gaza.
“But we never heard of what they will do to challenge that,” he said.
“The aggression on Gaza has not yet ended. I still feel like I am in a war zone, as the armed drones are still roaming Gaza skies every single second. Nothing actually has improved or changed in our miserable daily life in Gaza. We have 12 hours of electricity outages every day and the borders are shut down. We had great hope that our life will get better soon after an immense loss of our people and infrastructures in the latest Gaza attack. However, there is not even a prospect of improvements in the near future for us.” (The mother of Ayman Qwaider, a Palestinian from Gaza now living in Australia)
Rubble Bucket Challenge
“I can only think of this ceasefire as a pillow that was squeezed against the face of an-already-dying patient to suffocate his/her screams so that he/she dies quickly and quietly.” (Maysam Yusef, a 25-year-old Palestinian in Gaza now studying for a bachelor’s degree in media and politics,
After the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS went viral, Gaza activist Maysam Yusef, 24, started the Rubble Bucket campaign the day before the ceasefire was announced with the Facebook page Rubble Bucket Challenge to raise awareness.
“The whole point is to gain attention,” Yusef said, “because Gaza doesn’t need money, it needs someone to stop this.”
The campaign invites social media users to douse themselves in sand, gravel, and other materials from buildings that have been destroyed during Israel’s seven-week military offensive. The choice of materials was both deliberate and necessary: they couldn’t use ice water, participants say, due to deteriorating conditions on the ground.
The Challenge has reached Jordan, Morroco and even the US, with Pro-Palestinian Activists in Washington taking the challenge as can be seen in the International Business Times UK report above.
The Conflict by Numbers
The 50 days of war in Gaza resulted in damage that the UN said is “Unprecedented since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967.” Here’s a closer look at the conflict by the numbers by AJ+.
Gaza – Israel Conflict: Numbers Behind The Destruction In Gaza
Pledges of reconstruction aid abound—$93 million from the United Arab Emirates, $10 million from Kuwait, $5 million from Bahrain. But Palestinians say the pace of rebuilding will depend on what goods Egypt and Israel let through their borders.
However, the biggest loss is the loss of human life, the livelihoods of Gazan’s, the children who are suffering from post traumatic stress.
And an amount cannot be put on this. Gazan’s continue to strive and will carry on rebuilding, just as they have done after previous conflicts – they have no other choice but to continue living and trying to live life as best they can.