Gaza residents pick up pieces after 50 days of bombing

A family of 10 living in a bombed building say they have little left to lose now

Sa’ed, Safa (with baby Abdallah) and Naima are among 10 people living in a badly damaged house in Shejaia. Photograph: Lara Marlowe

Sa’ed, Safa (with baby Abdallah) and Naima are among 10 people living in a badly damaged house in Shejaia. Photograph: Lara Marlowe


There appeared to be a method to the bombing of Gaza for 50 days in July and August, or at least a pattern. In eastern parts of the tiny enclave, along the Israeli border, there are levelled or destroyed homes, factories, schools and at least one hospital.

The residents of Shejaia, where Israel lost 13 soldiers on July 20th, believe revenge motivated the extreme destruction there. Seven soldiers died when Hamas fired an anti-tank missile at an armoured personnel carrier. There was no trace of Sgt Oron Shaul, who was in the destroyed vehicle, and it is not clear whether he is dead or alive. Hamas reportedly wants to swap him – or his remains – for 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Bomb damaged

Few Gazans believe they’ve seen the last of the Israelis. “I don’t want any more wars,” sighs Naima (49). She lives with nine family members in a bomb-damaged apartment. Her nephew, Ahmad (24), disagrees. The Israelis shot him in the leg when the family fled Shejaia. His small tobacconist shop was destroyed. “I don’t care if everyone in the Gaza Strip dies, but Israel must accept Hamas’s conditions,” Ahmad says.

Naima’s daughter-in-law Safa holds baby Abdallah, born 10 days before the war. “Everything is destroyed now anyway,” says Safa. “So we may as well hold out for the terms of the resistance.”

In Gaza City, the Israelis mainly attacked high-rise buildings, a strategy Gazans compare to 9/11. A 12th-floor office in the Bank of Palestine provides the perfect observation point. The 17-floor “Italian tower” was the tallest building in Gaza. “They told everyone to leave half an hour before they attacked,” says Hatem Hassouna, a civil engineer and owner of four destroyed factories. “Everybody left, so if they were targeting someone, he was gone too. It looks like wanton destruction.”

Civilian deaths

Civilians were caught up in targeted attacks. Israeli forces bombed without warning the building where Shabaan Dahdoh, a leader of Islamic Jihad, was hiding, at the moment of the evening iftar, the meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan, killing more than 20 civilians.

They killed some 14 civilians in the attempted assassination of Mohamed Deif, the leader of Hamas’s military wing. Israel says Deif is dead; Hamas says he is alive.

The Italian tower was bombed by an F-16, which means the skeletal structure will have to be torn down. Apache helicopters fired missiles into the top floors of the high-rise that housed Voice of al Aqsa, the Hamas radio station. They targeted the top floors of Hamas government offices in the same manner, so that building too may be salvaged.

The rubble of the home of the mayor of Gaza lies flat as a pancake, hidden by surrounding high-rises. Five floors of a tall blue and grey building were also destroyed, though no one knows why.

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