Winter rain flooded Gaza houses damaged in the war last spring

The first heavy rains in winter caused water to flood into houses across the Gaza Strip that were destroyed in the 11-day war between Israel and the militant Hamas rulers in the Palestinian territories in May

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip-The first heavy rain in winter caused water to pour into Ghalia al-Attar’s house through cracks in the walls and tin roof, as the widow, her children and grandchildren threw buckets on the floor.

Their home is one of the tens of thousands of houses destroyed during the 11-day Gaza War between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in May, which ruled this secluded area. And impoverished territories. Hundreds of houses were completely destroyed, and reconstruction work has not yet begun.

Families like al-Attar have done everything they can to mend everything, but the winter in the seaside area brings cold nights and periodic heavy rains.

“I have never seen a night worse than this,” al-Attar said the next day, when she and her relatives used the rope to spread blankets and mattresses on the rope to dry.

Beit Lahiya, an agricultural town near the Israeli border, was hit by Israeli air strikes during the war. Several surrounding houses were damaged, and trees were scratched by shrapnel.

Israel stated that it only aimed at military targets and made every effort to protect civilians, but according to the United Nations, more than half of the more than 250 people killed in Gaza were civilians, and 13 people died on the Israeli side.

According to the United Nations, about 56,000 houses across Gaza were damaged in the conflict, and more than 2,100 houses were either completely destroyed or severely damaged, making them uninhabitable. Israel launched hundreds of air strikes during the war, often entering densely populated areas, where Hamas is said to be launching attacks because Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets at Israel.

Since Hamas seized power from hostile Palestinian forces in 2007, Gaza has experienced four wars and a punitive Israeli-Egypt blockade. Israel said it needed a blockade to prevent militants from rearming, while critics saw it as a collective punishment.

Naji Sarhan, an official with the Ministry of Housing managed by Hamas, said residents need US$170 million to rebuild, but only US$13 million has been paid so far. This includes some repair costs, but these funds are considered insufficient to cover the reconstruction costs of the destroyed houses. The World Bank, which helped coordinate international assistance to Gaza, also made similar estimates of the resources needed for reconstruction.

“The donor countries are tired,” Salhan said. “Some houses have been destroyed three times. In every war, this or that house is destroyed, then rebuilt, and then destroyed.”

Many families whose houses suffered only minor or moderate damage still stay in it, usually because they cannot afford other accommodation costs. But after several months of maintenance, coupled with the arrival of rainy weather, the cracks are getting bigger and bigger.

Qatar, a major donor in Gaza and a political ally of Hamas, has allocated US$50 million to rebuild and repair houses. Egypt has pledged US$500 million for infrastructure and housing, but it is not clear how much of it has been fulfilled. Salhan said that Hamas officials are negotiating with Qatar to increase its contribution.

As part of an informal ceasefire brokered by Egypt, Israel has eased its blockade and is issuing 10,000 permits to Palestinians in Gaza to work in Israel, mainly in construction and manual labor. This will provide a lot of cash for Gaza, where the unemployment rate is hovering around 50%. Those affordable construction materials are allowed in.

The next morning after the heavy rain, some houses in Beit Lahia were still flooded. Ali al-Attar is a cousin who got married in January and moved into his home. He wade through one foot (30 cm) of water while moving furniture and moving into his parents’ house. He tried to save the wet carpet that was stinking with salt water.

“We want to rebuild this house and make it better, but I can’t,” Gallia said.

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