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Living in rubble, Gaza unchanged one year on

Dec. 27, 2009 1:32 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 29, 2009 12:55 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – The war might as well have ended yesterday for all the rubble, desolation and uncertainty.

With the onset of winter, survivors living in makeshift shelters are still searching for more permanent living quarters.

Finding a way to make a living is not much easier, families say, and there is little support from the government, which says it can do nothing until Israel lifts its blockade.

The Gaza government’s Ministry of Public Works Undersecretary Ibrahim Radwan said all reconstruction efforts came to naught because of the ongoing siege.

Struggling with both issues, the Al-Athamneh family recently moved into one of the mud-brick homes constructed by the UN Relief and Works Agency, when lobbying efforts to bring in cement failed. The family is grateful for the home, but the location of the building kilometers from their demolished community meant uprooting social ties.

The family, owners of a taxi company, are also out of work, since the cars were destroyed in the war, and no replacements have been allowed in.

Eighteen members of the family were also killed during the war, when Israeli fighter jets slammed their Beit Hanoun neighborhood with 13 missiles. Israel later declared the bombing a mistake.

Five of the family homes were destroyed along with three taxi cars, leaving 52 without an income.

Staying put

The Ubeid family decided not to opt for one of the new UNRWA homes, preferring to try and rehabilitate the family farm - the only source of income before the war - and remain where they are in northern Gaza.

The family list two members during the attack, as well as six apartments. The farm was decimated, bulldozed and neglected because of its proximity to Israeli troop activity in the winter months last year. The men and women of the family have been collecting the remains of the buildings and trying to start over.

"We are used to aid organizations coming in and counting up our losses," Sabha Ubeid said, "but we have lost hope that help will come from any of them." He said they got used to seeing organizations coming to count the losses but lost hope of receiving any help.

Compensation

Others were lucky, and received aid that helped them repair enough of the damage from the war that they can begin to recover their lives.

Fifty-eight-year-old Hamdan As-Sawafiri stands over the remains of his farm in the Zaytoun area east of Gaza City. He has been unable to farm most of the land, but recently received funds to rebuild the fences around the fields, which he says is a first step to rehabilitating the area for crop planting in the years to come.

Hani Abu Zour had a blacksmith workshop that was damaged in the war, he lost most of the equipment. What was not destroyed stands in disrepair as he waits for parts to be shipped in, but they were barred along with the cement.

His home was also damaged, and he hired workers to hep him rebuild out of salvaged materials. The construction costs ran over the amount given to him by the de facto government after the war, and he says he is now in dept to the workers, though he does have a roof over his family's head.

Waiting

In the Jabal Al-Rais area of Gaza City, totally destroyed during the war, Sharif Khader and his family still live in the rubble of their home.

Khader has also had a dozen international organizations through his property, but has not received aid from any of them. Before the war he lived off the income generated by the olive grove next to his home. The trees were uprooted and cut during the war, they too are near the border area, and now he relies on his son, a taxi driver, for sustenance.
Ma'an News Agency
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