International

Winter rains flood Gaza houses damaged in last spring’s war

By The Associated Press

BEIT LAHIYA: The first storm of winter poured water into the house of Ghaliah al-Attar through cracks in the walls and tin roof, as the widow, her children and grandchildren spread buckets on the floor.

His home was among thousands that were damaged in May during the 11-day Gaza War between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which rules the isolated and impoverished region. Hundreds of homes were completely destroyed, and reconstruction efforts have yet to take off.

Families like the al-Attar have fixed things as much as they can, but winter in the seaside area brings chilly nights and occasional rain.

Al-Attar said the next day, “I have never seen a worse night than that, as he and his relatives spread blankets and mattresses on ropes to dry.

The farming town of Beit Lahia, near the border with Israel, was affected by Israeli air raids during the war. Several nearby houses were damaged, and trees were damaged by shrapnel.

Israel says it only targeted military targets and did everything possible to spare civilians, but more than half of the more than 250 killed in Gaza were civilians, according to the United Nations, thirteen people from Israel. were killed.

According to the United Nations, about 56,000 homes in Gaza were damaged in the conflict, and more than 2,100 others were either completely destroyed or so heavily damaged they are uninhabitable. Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes during the war, often in populated areas where it said Hamas was carrying out attacks, as Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets at Israel.

Gaza has endured four wars and an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007, when Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent terrorists from reactivating, while critics see it as a collective punishment.

Nazi Sarhan, an official at the Hamas-run housing ministry, says residents need $170 million to rebuild, but only $13 million has been disbursed so far. This includes some repairs, but the funds are not considered sufficient to cover the reconstruction of destroyed homes. The World Bank, which helps coordinate international aid to Gaza, has provided similar estimates on what is needed to rebuild.

Sirhan said, “The donor countries are weary. There are houses that were destroyed thrice. In every war this or that house is destroyed, then rebuilt, then destroyed.”

Many families whose homes have suffered only minor or moderate damage have stayed in them, often because they cannot afford other housing. But even after months the cracks are not getting repaired and with the arrival of rainy season, the cracks are getting wider.

Qatar, a major donor to Gaza and a political ally of Hamas, has allocated $50 million to rebuild and repair homes. Egypt has pledged $500 million for infrastructure and housing, but it is unclear how much of that funding has been met. Sirhan said Hamas officials were in talks with Qatar to increase their contribution.

Israel has eased the blockade as part of an informal ceasefire brokered by Egypt and is issuing 10,000 permits to Palestinians in Gaza to work mainly in construction and monthly labour. This would provide a significant influx of cash into Gaza, where unemployment is around 50%. Building materials are allowed to those who can afford them.

After the storm in the morning, some houses in Bet Lahia are still flooded with water. Ali al-Attar, a cousin who married in January and moved in at his place, pulled out his furniture through foot-deep (30-centimeter) water and carried it to his parents’ house. He tried to salvage the wet carpets that were soaked in salt water.

“We hope to rebuild this house and make it look good, but I can’t,” Ghalia said.

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