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Gaza reconstruction finally begins over a year after Israeli attack

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Awad Nawasra, 52, was delighted when he got a call from the Ministry of Labor in Gaza to come and sign a contract in order to start rebuilding his completely demolished home in Gaza’s el-Maqazi camp. “I was surprised when they called me from the ministry to come and sign the reconstruction contract, they told me that I should bring a geometrical scheme of my home within 48 hours to be given money to initiate building,” Nawasra said as he was looked contentedly at the construction workers laying the foundations of his new house.

Nawasra’s home was targeted by the Israeli military planes three times during the conflict last summer. Four of his family members were killed in the first raid, his newly-married son with his wife, and two of his eldest son’s children. In addition to the psychological suffering of losing beloved family members, Nawasra also had to find a flat for rent. “So far we have lived in three flats as we were following every piece of news about expected reconstruction efforts to take place in any time. At the beginning, I thought that I will not wait for so long to see my three-story house rebuilt. But, when time elapses without any genuine effort, my hopes started to shrink,” Nawasra said. More than 15 people of his extended family lived in his house.

Still, Nawasra’s hope of seeing his three-story house rebuilt again will not be accomplished soon. The current plan aims to build only one floor for every completely damaged house, regardless of the size of the previous house.

Reconstruction is now being seen in nearly all of Gaza’s districts as part of the funds that were pledged at the Cairo Conference to reconstruct Gaza have started to be delivered to Gaza. The conference was held in October, 2014, and raised about $3.5 billion.

Joint local and international work

Mufeed Hassaina, the Palestinian labor minister, confirmed that the distribution of construction contracts for people with completely collapsed homes is the first phase of the reconstruction project. “We received part of the pledged money, and bought the necessary building materials such as the cement, iron, and gravel,” Hassain’s office said in a press release.

The conflict last summer completely or partially destroyed more than 100,000 civilian homes, leaving hundreds of thousands of Gazans homeless. It has been more than a year since the war was over and the devastation’s manifestations are still apparent in Gaza everywhere. Palestinians were desperately waiting to see the international world’s promises of rapid reconstruction come true, and they did not think that they will wait for so long. The reasons for this delay were mainly political. The donors, the Americans in particular, wanted proof that the pledged funds would be destined for only civilian purposes. Therefore, there has been a  growing call for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to reestablish its presence in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have accused the PA of trying to dodge its responsibilities in Gaza in general, and especially the reconstruction since the last war. In addition, the Israelis have made the movement of materials into Gaza difficult by closing the crossings which are the only channels for construction materials to enter Gaza.

In the meantime, thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge in UN-run schools, with some of them living there for nearly a year.

Fatima Abo-Qaidda is a university student whose family house was completely demolished in the conflict. Her family had to live in a nearby UN school in Beit Hanoun village in the north of the Gaza Strip. “Just month ago, we have been given a small flat in el-Shaikh Zaid town which we have to share with my married brothers,” Fatima said. When I asked her whether they have called them to sign a contract, she said that they have not called her father yet.

The UN has declared that it closed the door of the last UN school shelter, El-Bahreen school in the north of Gaza, a month ago. “The UN has finished renovating about 62,000 partially damaged houses, and about 60,000 still need to be renovated, Adnan Abo-Hassna, the UN spokesman said.

“We gave money to about 35 family in Gaza to start the reconstruction, but we have 9,000 completely demolished homes in total that need to be reconstructed, ” Abo-Hassna added.

The Housing Ministry in Gaza along with UNRWA have prepared a mechanism to reconstruct completely damaged homes as part of the UN mechanism presented by Robert Serry, the former UN Special Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process. Najje Sarhan, the Housing Ministry’s deputy confirmed that the ministry’s staff has finished the process of scrutinizing their data which includes the names of the homes’ owners.

The ministry said that Gaza needs about 130,000 housing units after the conflict.

Exacerbated crisis

The current housing crisis in Gaza is taking place alongside an unprecedented heat wave this summer, which greatly aggravates the situation.

Hayyat, 26, is a seven-month pregnant woman and has a one-year old son. She lives with her family in a small tent established on the ruins of their completely damaged home in Wadi Salqa in the south of the Gaza Strip. “The heat is sweltering inside this stinky tent. We endured a lot of difficulties during the summer as the mosquitoes spread quickly in the heat,” Hayyat said. The scars of the mosquitoes bites were apparent on her little boy’s delicate skin.

To the north of Salqa is Kuzaha village, an area which endured a heavy bombardment during the summer conflict that leveled many of its residents’ homes to the ground. The Israeli aggression has left the beautiful and quiet village as a heap of stony rubbish.

As a temporary solution for the homeless people inside the village, a charity from the Gulf has donated money to build the “Caravans’ Neighborhood”  which accommodates about 50 families whose homes were entirely damaged during the conflict.

Ahmed Qdeeh, in his thirties, lives in a caravan along with his family members. “The heat inside the caravan is intolerable, I am looking for other alternatives. They promised us that this will be a momentary solution for our problem, but so far we sustained these dire circumstances for more than 6 months,” Qdeeh said.

“The news is good, but politics here taught us to wait for deeds before listening to ornate speeches, ” Qdeeh ended.

Isra Saleh El-Namy

Isra Saleh El-Namy is a journalist in Gaza.

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6 Responses

  1. Hostage on August 10, 2015, 7:01 pm

    Gaza reconstruction finally begins over a year after Israeli attack

    It’s better late than never, but it is undoubtedly too late for many of the most vulnerable members of the population, see “Gaza infant mortality rate rises for first time in 53 years, UN study reveals” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/10/gaza-infant-mortality-rate-rises-for-first-time-in-53-years-un-study-reveals

  2. echinococcus on August 10, 2015, 10:01 pm

    That’s quite a neonatal mortality rate they got now, from 12%, which was already mighty high, to 20.3% (in 2013.) Compare to the Zionist entity, where it is 2%.
    No surprise there. Infant and neonatal mortality rates are considered a major index of public health as they are the first and most affected by every change and inform on the health of the entire population.
    Of course that is one main goals of the deliberate Zionist policy of only allowing insufficient calories to the average Gazan and all the rest of the siege measures, like cutting all primary necessities like medicines and medical equipment, bombing hospitals, etc. So of course they now manage to kill a good number of kids that their bombs and bullets have missed. Isn’t the siege of Gaza something specifically contemplated in the convention on genocide?

    • Hostage on August 11, 2015, 9:59 am

      Isn’t the siege of Gaza something specifically contemplated in the convention on genocide?

      Of course. The preamble of the UN Apartheid Convention explains that some of the constituent acts of apartheid also constitute acts of Genocide, e.g. Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

      It’s a distinction that really makes little difference these days. The crime of genocide was covered by a UN convention that permitted prosecutions for acts committed in peacetime, while crimes against humanity used to require a showing of some sort of connection or nexus to an international armed conflict prior to a landmark ruling from the UN ad hoc criminal tribunals in 1993. A conviction for either of those crimes or the crime of persecution would have essentially the same result today, a life sentence.

      The main difference is that in order to obtain a conviction for Genocide a Prosecutor must prove intent, while Article 3 of the Apartheid convention says that the commission of those acts alone constitutes the crime of apartheid, “regardless of the motive involved”. Frankly, the Israelis have ignored publicly issued ICRC and UNRWA warnings and demonstrated reckless disregard for the consequences of their policies over and over again. Since there are additional constituent acts that only apply to the crime of apartheid, the prosecutor should simply charge defendants with both crimes, if that’s where the facts and the evidence in a case leads.

      For example, the Secretary General’s dossier in the 2003 wall case already contained a rapporteur’s report which noted that construction of the “apartheid” wall/fence had created isolated ethnic enclaves and that there had been reliable Israeli press reports that the prime minister was pursuing a deliberate policy of Bantustanization. That is prima facie evidence of the crime of apartheid according to the panel of experts who authored the Human Rights Commission’s “Study Concerning the Question of Apartheid from the Point of View of International Penal Law”, E/CN.4/1075, 15 February 1972, pp. 51 – 52

      The Secretary General’s personal report to the Court noted that entire communities had been isolated from their regular sources of food and water, while their unharvested crops were withering and wasting away in the nearby fields. Several interested state parties, including Lebanon, supplied written submissions which said:

      “The construction of the wall and the resulting situation correspond to a number of the constituent acts of the crime of apartheid, as enumerated in Article 2 of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the General Assembly on 30 November 1973: that is to say, the denial of the liberty and dignity of a group, the deliberate imposition on a group of living conditions calculated to cause its physical destruction in whole or in part, measures calculated to deprive a group of the right to work, the right to education and the right to freedom of movement and residence, the creation of ghettos, the expropriation of property, etc. Such actions constitute measures of collective punishment.”

      link to icj-cij.org

    • echinococcus on August 11, 2015, 10:21 am

      Thank you, Hostage.
      So the plans as disclosed by the Sharon government for the so-called “disengagement” from Gaza and the famous “we’ll put them on a diet” statements must be evidence of intent to commit genocide.

      • Hostage on August 11, 2015, 1:50 pm

        So the plans as disclosed by the Sharon government for the so-called “disengagement” from Gaza and the famous “we’ll put them on a diet” statements must be evidence of intent to commit genocide.

        The defendants would probably dispute that, since it is not the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn. Any disagreement over a material fact that could alter the outcome of a case would have to be decided by the Judges of the particular trial chamber. The courts in some jurisdictions have ruled that mens rea can be inferred using structure based approaches by the defendant’s conduct and what he or she should have known. Other jurisdictions won’t convict or even undertake proceedings without an admission or confession by the defendant. See for instance: What does ‘intent to destroy’ in genocide mean? http://www.genocidewatch.org/images/Articles_What_does_intent_to_destroy_in_genocide_mean.pdf

        So, the Prosecutor might have to produce something like a “smoking gun” memo or witness who overheard a discussion that proved those responsible intended to destroy some of the members of the group beyond any reasonable doubt.

  3. Accentitude on August 13, 2015, 6:37 am

    While I’m glad that much needed reconstruction is finally happening in the Gaza Strip, I am also disappointed that no one is talking about the effects of international aid interventions in the reconstruction of Gaza, particularly when these humanitarian projects are aimed at 1) sustaining life under occupation instead of advocating for the end of occupation and 2) absolving Israel of it’s legal obligations in its role as the occupier to repair the damage that it has caused. This second point, in particular, entrenches the occupation. Why? Because it gives Israel a free pass to do what it wants, knowing that it will never be legally and financially responsible for its actions. Think about it. Israel bombs a hospital in Gaza and 1 year later, USAID or the EU or the UN swoop in one year later to rebuild that hospital. Why isn’t Israel held accountable for the destruction of that hospital, according to the Geneva Convention?

    The same can be said about the West Bank. When Israel annexes lands and builds 1000 new settlement homes on stolen Palestinian land, USAID swoops in to build a new road for Palestinian villagers affected by that settlement, thereby 1) absolving Israel of any responsibility for its actions instead of taking Israel to task at the UN Security Council.

    Granted that although Israel signed the Geneva Convention, it has objected to certain article which would have otherwise held it legally responsible for flagrant and on-going violations of those articles on account of it’s constant “state of emergency”. However, this too needs to be addressed. However, I think the international community are a collective group of wimps whom will never take any concrete action to end the occupation. The furthest they’ll go is to rebuild the homes of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip under an on-going blockade…instead of working to remove the blockade.

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