Gaza Awaits Reconstruction of War-Torn Homes

Ziyad watching the reconstruction of his home

In the Alzaytoun neighborhood south of Gaza City, Rania As'ad Assamouni, a widow and mother of five children, is waiting for the builders to finish her 950 square foot home. Rania's husband was killed during the conflict in January 2009.

"It was very difficult for me, being a widow and mother of five children. During the past period, my children and I lived in one room at my parents' home. My life without my husband is extremely difficult,” Rania told OnIslam.net.

“It's difficult every time I go from an institution to another to ask for assistance. Actually, it's true they will build us this house, but still I don't feel any real joy when my husband is no longer there. He's no longer there," said with tears in her eyes.

Fixed Homes, Broken Hearts

In the Gaza Strip, families whose homes were destroyed during the 2009 war are starting to see some signs of reconstruction, but they still face heartache.

 In another corner of the Assamouni's neighborhood, where the Israeli military destroyed almost 20 homes during the 2009 attack on the coastal region, Ziyad Assamouni stood in front of a recently constructed home in the neighborhood.

 "I had lived in this place along with eight family members before the Israeli bulldozers crushed our house during the war. During the past two years, I used to move from one rented house to another under bad conditions. Once, I rented a home made of one room that was used for breeding some birds," he recalled.

The man went on to explain how his brother and sister along with her husband were killed during the war. "Besides the displacement I have endured, I went through very bitter moments. I recall that my nephew, who lost his father during the war, used to call me Dad. Now, I'm looking forward to receiving this house completely constructed by winter, so that at least I can guarantee having a warm place for my little children."

He hopes that the 950 square foot home could eventually secure him and his family a better life.

Ziyad's new house is being funded by the Palestinian Housing Council, which belongs to the Gaza-based Palestinian Housing Ministry.

Construction of new homes for those displaced by the Israeli war is complicated by the four-year-long Israeli blockade. Although Israeli officials eased the blockade last summer, they continue to limit construction materials from entering into the occupied territory.

Construction Challenges

One of the leading Arab NGOs that funds and oversees construction projects for war-torn houses in the territory is Kuwait's Al-Rahma Society for Aid and Development The society has embarked on rebuilding homes partially or completely. Kamal Mesleh, the Gaza representative for the society talked to OnIslam.net about such new projects.

"We have already reconstructed 700 partially destroyed houses. In the

coming four months, we are expected to complete construction of 100 homes in the territory."

Asked how they could have completed building these homes amid a lack of raw building materials, Mesleh explained that they are paying a premium for materials.

"In the beginning, we found it a big problem, but we began to overcome it by picking whatever is available on the local market, like concrete. We didn't care where the materials come from, whether from abroad or from underground. More importantly, such materials are made available in the local market."

Since January 2008, Gazans have been relying on underground smuggling tunnels to bring in essential goods and commodities from neighboring Egypt. Most of the construction materials available in the local market, including cement and steel, are mainly Egyptian-made and are sold at relatively high prices.

According to the Palestinian minister of housing in Gaza, they have used 1.5 million tons of concrete to rebuild homes, much of which was reproduced locally from the rubble of houses that were destroyed. Yousef Almansi, minister of housing and construction in the Hamas-led government in Gaza, spoke to OnIslam.net about his ministry's efforts to deal with what he called "challenges" under the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

"Many houses have been rebuilt by other NGOs in Gaza, like Turkey's IIH. Unfortunately, the challenges are very big, yet we and our people are determined to keep up until our aspirations, including lifting the siege and establishing a Palestinian state, are achieved."

The 22-day Israeli war on Gaza, which lasted from December 2008 through January 2009, claimed the lives of 1400 Palestinians, half of whom were women and children. The war also destroyed the homes of about 3500 families. Many of these families moved in with relatives or friends, while some are still living in tents.

Rami Almeghari is a Palestinian  journalist and reporter based in Gaza strip.

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