2 months after Israeli offensive on Gaza, Palestinians still living the trauma

A family of four sons, two daughters, and both their parents has been homeless since 12 May when their apartment was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike on their six-storey residential tower block in Al Naser neighborhood north of Gaza City.

Raed Subaih, 45, the head of the family, says “We feel as if we are beggars when we seek the rent for our temporary home”. His family’s temporary isn’t far away, “but it is in very poor condition.” He received $2,000 from the government in Gaza immediately after his apartment was destroyed.

“We could only afford some of the basics such as mattresses, blankets, and kitchen appliances,” he explained. “However, the destruction of our house was not only a material loss. Yes, we lost our home, our documents, and our furniture, but all of these can be replaced, even if slowly and after a great deal of suffering, but our memories and our happy times could not be replaced. The suffering and trauma cannot be erased.”

Like other residents of the building on 12 May, Subaih received a phone call from Israeli intelligence agents telling him to leave his home within 10 minutes because it was going to be bombed. They gave no reason but insisted that the building must be evacuated immediately before being destroyed.

Each of the six floors had two apartments; ten families lived in the building peacefully until they were ordered to leave and Israel made them homeless. They, like hundreds of other families who lost their homes to Israeli bombs, are struggling to afford the rent for their temporary accommodation. Those who cannot pay have been living in makeshift tents or with their relatives.

“Our home was destroyed on the eve of Eid Al-Fitr,” Subaih pointed out. “I wish that we could have rebuilt our home before Eidul Adha, but it seems that Eidul Adha will be in the same temporary home.” He adds that they have set up a tent near the rubble that was once their apartment block, where they receive guests.

The Israeli onslaught lasted for ten days and nights between 11 and 21 May. Almost 1,500 families had their homes destroyed completely or badly damaged. Another 13,000 families live in homes which require essential repairs to make them practically habitable, but they are unable to carry out the repairs due to the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza which leaves building materials in short supply. Meanwhile, Subaih tries to salvage what he can from the remains of his apartment as the rubble is removed.

The roads across Gaza are congested. Eidul Adha is approaching, and the busy streets and markets suggest prosperity and happiness. The reality, though, is that the Palestinians in Gaza are wandering the streets to fill the time; they are window shopping, not buying. Poverty is rising.

Last week, Israel announced an “easing” of the siege and allowed clothes and some other goods into Gaza, which had been held for months at Israeli ports. According to Ahmed Selmi, a salesman in a clothes shop in the centre of Gaza City, this Eid is very different. “Many of our local residents are still affected by the Israeli offensive. Their purchasing power is very weak, so even though some goods have been allowed into the territory, business is slow.”

Palestinian MP Jamal Al-Khodari has said that the closures of the border crossings have inflicted massive losses on the Gaza economy. Ninety per cent of factories have closed and unemployment has risen sharply to 60 per cent.

With a chronic shortage of disposable income, noted Ahmed Habboush who owns a shop in Al Zawiyeh Market, the most popular in Gaza, people are unable to buy anything. Some shop owners in other markets have erected tents to display their goods but to no effect. The serious economic situation is affecting everyone.

The medical and psychological impact of the Israeli offensive is ongoing for many people, as is the physical impact of losing homes and infrastructure necessary for a normal life. Two months after Israel’s ten-day assault, though, all of these factors are responsible for the trauma that far too many Palestinians are feeling on every level. The sad fact is that they are unable to see any light at the end of the very dark tunnel into which Israel has plunged them.

(By: Motasem A Dalloul, published  for the first time by Middle East Monitor on July 19, 2021)