One year after war, people of Gaza still sit among the ruins

A year after the halt to hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Aug. 26, 2014, not a single one of the nearly 18,000 homes destroyed or severely damaged in Gaza is habitable.Those involved in the process, and advocacy groups, attribute the slow pace to Palestinian political infighting, Israel’s involvement in approving projects and participants, and a lack of funds. International donors have sent about $340 million of the $2.5 billion they pledged for Gaza’s reconstruction last fall, and much of that was spent on removing rubble, on temporary housing for 100,000 displaced residents or on minor repairs.

Palestinian civil-society groups pushed forward a petition this month calling for an end to the reconstruction mechanism, saying that Israel’s access to a database of destroyed homes and its role in reviewing applications only entrenched its control over Gaza, a position echoed in a report published this week by Gisha, an Israeli group that promotes freedom of movement for Palestinians.

Mofeed M. Al Hassaina, the Gaza-based minister of housing and public works, said 455,000 tons of rubble had been cleared; 1.5 million tons remain. According to the mechanism’s website, 115 larger projects, like schools, hospitals and roads, are in progress, 15 have been completed, and 237 are in the approval pipeline. Bashir Rayyes, the Palestinian Authority’s coordinator for Gaza reconstruction, said 95 percent of Gaza’s electric grid and water supply had been restored.

Fouad Harara has a photograph of his former and future home affixed to the tent he put up after the fighting stopped last August, where has spent virtually every day since. It shows a flourishing nut tree, which he said was felled by Israeli bombs. A few yards away, green branches sprout from the ground, some part of the tree apparently having revived itself. “We are the same–our homes and ourselves,” said Mr. Harara’s brother Abed, 53. “We will not die. Our roots are like this tree.”

[New York Times]   

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