Gaza survivors face rebuilding – again – after Israel’s attack

Over the last 12 years Gaza residents have endured four deadly Israeli attacks and after the latest, many Palestinians are again forced to reconstruct their shattered homes.

The 11-day Israeli onslaught in May destroyed 1,148 housing and commercial units and partially damaged 15,000 others, leaving more than 100,000 civilians displaced in United Nations-run schools and other hosting communities.

For many survivors, it was not the first time they have been forced to seek temporary shelter as they face the costly prospect of rebuilding.

Ramez al-Masri, 39, lost his two-storey house in a blink of an eye for the second time in May, leaving his family homeless again. His home was first blown up in the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza.

On May 14 at about 3am, one of al-Masri’s neighbours received a phone call from the Israeli military ordering everyone in the vicinity to evacuate as air strikes were imminent.

“At that late time, my neighbour phoned me just to tell me about the warning,” al-Masri said. “Before evacuation, I rushed to my bedroom getting the bag that holds our [vital] belongings. Hysterically, we fled to a nearby hospital seeking safety. We stayed there until dawn.”

‘Totally destroyed’

Over the 11 days of deadly Israeli strikes, al-Masri’s family later sheltered at one of his relative’s homes. After the ceasefire took effect on May 21, they returned to their house, but it was reduced to a debris-scattered hole filled with sewage because of the shattered pipes below.

“After I found my house totally destroyed. I rented an apartment for my family, including my wife and six children, with $200. It has only two bedrooms, one for me and my wife and the other for all my children,” he said.

Al-Masri’s house was previously knocked down in the 2014 war when Israeli forces invaded Gaza’s northernmost region, randomly shelling the area and leaving 140,000 homes destroyed.

The house was rebuilt after three years and his family moved back in 2017. “Will my house, which was destroyed once again, take another three years to be rebuilt? Shall I be homeless until 2024?”

Al-Masri said he fears returning to “the caravans”, small metal huts widely spread out in damaged areas, where he lived in the three years before his house was rebuilt. He cannot afford the expensive rent as a vegetable vendor on an income that can barely support his family in normal times.

“Living in the caravans in the summer is unbearable [because of the heat],” he said, adding he hopes the international community helps him and other homeless Palestinians rebuild as soon as possible.

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