Gazans take stock a year after the war | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 08.07.2015
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Middle East

Gazans take stock a year after the war

A year after the conflict, life for people in Gaza has not improved. In the wake of the conflict DW'S Tania Krämer visited several families to hear their story. A year later, she asks how they have fared in the meantime.

During the 51-day conflict between July 7 and August 26, 2014, according to UN figures, 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462 civilians, a third (551) of them children. Over 11,000 Palestinians were injured, with 10 percent suffering permanent disabilities. Israel disputes those figures, saying that only 761 fatalities are assumed to be civilians and 936 were identified as militants, with the status of the remaining fatalities still unknown. In Israel, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed and over 1,600 people were injured.

One year after the war, around 100,000 people remain displaced in Gaza. Over 80,000 families have received building materials to repair their homes through the temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), which was brokered by the UN with the Palestinian Authority and Israel. As of this week, 35 families have received the go for rebuilding their houses which were completely destroyed during the war.

Most of the US $5.4 billion (5 billion euros) in donor money which was pledged in 2014 hasn't arrived yet. In addition, no permanent ceasefire has been negotiated and the political situation in Gaza remains unstable; the Palestinian leadership, Hamas and Fatah, is divided. Youth unemployment is one of the highest in the world, with more than 60 percent out of work. In the last three months, violence has resurfaced, at least six rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel, and Israel has responded with airstrikes and missiles into Gaza.

Mousa Heles, Shejai'a. Mousa Heles has repaired the damage to his house where he lives with his family and planted a new garden where one year ago there was only rubble.

Mousa Heles: "It was important to me to rebuild my garden. I spend most of my time here in the garden. I love the nature, I love the plants and to see something nice amid all the grey and the destruction. The garden is my world. I also started to repair the house as good as we could. Through the reconstruction mechanism, I got a portion of cement, I sold half of it and kept half. The whole family helped in rebuilding the parts that were gone. By God, the kitchen, no refrigerator, no washing machine, not a plate remained and not a glass, the four walls of the kitchen also went. My cousins would come and help.

We broke what was destroyed in little pieces and we brought a tractor on our own expense to remove all the rubble and we started to repair slowly. All we want is to live. But politics here makes it very complicated. Gaza wants reconciliation, and with it a proper government. The whole world is waiting for that in order to lift the blockade. The cement would come in from Egypt and countries surrounding us and life would resume in town. But if all sides remain stubborn, here and over there, it would be impossible for Gaza to change."

Ahmad and Riham Tanira, Gaza-City. The family was displaced after their residential tower was hit by an airstrike and completely destroyed. They have moved twice since and are now renting a flat in Gaza-City. The residential tower they used to live in has not been rebuilt.

Riham: "I don't see anything new except that things are worse than before (long pause). There is even no hope in construction, every time they come out and say next month, next week, I don't see anything on the ground that would seriously give us hope, that we could be sure that after one year, for example, that we go back to our home. They talk but nothing is implemented or carried out and this is worse than the fact that we had to leave our home, much worse in the sense that you're waiting - but for nothing. And then, if you follow the news, it all doesn't look too promising. Maybe the next war will not just happen yet, but maybe it will come again next year. There is no such thing as a feeling of security here."

Ahmad: "From the day you saw me until today, I moved from the house I was in due to the fact that we moved in there in a rush to seek shelter. I tried to look for a better place. Of course, I am trying to furnish the house a second time. Regrettably what happened with us is as follows: everyone acquitted themselves from responsibility for those who were displaced. Meaning, I have been paying rent for seven consecutive months on my own expense and this is a big problem due to the fact that the Relief Agency (UNRWA) does not provide any services to the displaced. In general, the town is going through very difficult circumstances after the war.

We are currently facing the consequences of the war, which is the scarcity in job opportunities. I accepted work for very little, I earn $300 and I put them in to the rent. Now, the work that you do is not like before. Previously, you used to work more than this. I see that most people have no work, they're idle. So income has become limited. And all we're currently living on is the hope of reconstruction, that's all."

Jamalat El Kafarna and her mother Dalal, Beit Hanoun, Northern Gaza-Strip. The upper floors of their family home were destroyed. However, for a few months, they lived in the house on the ground floor. They are now renting a flat in a high-rise building in another neighborhood in Beit Hanoun. Their home has not been rebuilt.

Dalal: "We had to move out of the house in winter, the water came in through the ceiling and it was not safe to stay there. So we moved to this tower building and we are renting this flat. But we only got rental help for a very short time and now we have no aid. The poverty is killing us. I have no husband, and it is difficult to take care of my children. Here, the landlord is asking us every day for the rent. I am afraid we might have to leave this place. I got very sick from all this. Now I am just waiting. Waiting to go back to our house. It is all empty promises."

Jamalat: "Honestly, circumstances are going from bad to worse. Because there is no commitment. Not from the Agency (UNRWA) or from the government or from any side. They promised construction, there is no construction. They promised us rent, and they did not keep up with it (most of the displaced received rental aid from UNWRA or UNDP for three months until UNWRA ran out of funds - the ed.). We moved from our home because it was dangerous in the first place, and we took a risk with the idea of renting this place. We hoped to rent this place until the circumstances change and we can return to our home, but nothing has changed so far.

Really, from the day you came last year until now - you are probably following it in the news - there is nothing new. And even those who promised to support us, and to return us, and that our affairs would go back to normal as they used to be, it is all just promises. Even if one thinks of renting and going back to living one's life in a normal way, it would be difficult, because the lack of hope and the frustration make it difficult to feel optimistic."

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