Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support.

Click here to help us keep going

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Refugees once again: Gazans who lost their home wonder what's next

As the ranks of Gaza’s internally displaced continue to grow, communities are forming in the most unlikely places.

The Boys Preparatory School “A” is home to hundreds of Palestinians from eastern Rafah, where fierce fighting forced them to flee to the UN-run shelter. The school sits on a quiet street just off Rafah’s Nijmeh Circle, but on August 3, its residents were jarred by an explosion so loud that it left Ashraf Eid’s ears ringing.

“I jumped up to go see what was happening,” said Eid, 22, who has been at the school with his extended family for 24 days. Trained in first aid, he rushed to the scene to find shrapnel-pierced bodies and children screaming. An Israeli airstrike had killed ten people, including an employee of the UN Relief and Works Agency, two passers-by, and seven others who had sought shelter at the school.

Salah Salameen and his cousin, both 24, were injured by shrapnel from the August 3 strike. They were discharged from the Kuwaiti Hospital the day of the attack because there were no beds left for them. (photo: Samer Badawi)

Salah Salameen and his cousin, both 24, were injured by shrapnel from the August 3 strike. They were discharged from the Kuwaiti Hospital the day of the attack because there were no beds left for them. (photo: Samer Badawi)

The next day, when I met him, Ashraf was sitting behind a desk in the school’s courtyard, surrounded by children and selling biscuits and cigarettes – a makeshift business amid the shock gripping this haggard community.

I asked him if he and the others contemplated leaving after Sunday’s attack. “Where would we go?” he said. “Anyway, when it’s our time to die, we will die.”

That kind of fatalism pervades every conversation in Gaza. When death comes – literally – from above, there is no agency, no way to hedge against the inevitability of fate.

Another of the school’s residents, Mohammad Al-Jaafari, tried to buck fate last Friday, when he made for his home in Shoka, near Gaza’s would-be airport. He left after the day’s ceasefire took effect, at 8 a.m. By 9:30 that morning, the fighting had resumed. He never made it.

Mohammad Al-Jaafari, 46, attempted to go back to his Rafah neighborhood of Shoka last Friday, but the ceasefire planned for that day ended almost as soon as it began, and he had to turn back before he could survey the damage to his home.

Mohammad Al-Jaafari, 46, attempted to go back to his Rafah neighborhood of Shoka last Friday, but the ceasefire planned for that day ended almost as soon as it began, and he had to turn back before he could survey the damage to his home.

“I don’t know if my house is still there,” the 46-year-old told me. “I don’t know what I would do if they told us to leave.”

With nearly half a million of Gaza’s residents—a quarter of the population—displaced by Israeli airstrikes and shelling, it’s unclear how long the UN and other agencies can provide for them. In the meantime, those who have lost their homes—or are too afraid to return—are making do.

Under a tree just outside the school’s administration building, a group of young men tends to Mohammad and Salah Salameen, 24-year-old cousins who were injured in the Israeli strike. They were admitted with shrapnel wounds to the Kuwaiti Hospital nearby but had to leave the same day because there were no beds left for them.

Ashraf Eid, 22, has spent 24 days at the Rafah Boys Preparatory School, which was hit by an Israeli missile strike on August 3, 2014. When he heard the impact, Eid rushed to the scene to administer first aid. (photo: Samer Badawi)

Ashraf Eid, 22, has spent 24 days at the Rafah Boys Preparatory School, which was hit by an Israeli missile strike on August 3, 2014. When he heard the impact, Eid rushed to the scene to administer first aid. (photo: Samer Badawi)

Now sleeping on foam mattresses in the dusty courtyard, their friends change their dressings and try to keep the mood light. One of them makes a paper airplane from a pack of cigarettes. Another tells jokes. As they wait out the days, no one here knows what will come next. All they know is that they have each other.

Related:
In Al Shifa, doctors can’t keep up with the wounded
Palestinians flock to hospital to wait out assault
Blaming Palestinians for their own deaths

Newsletter banner 6 -540

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Whiplash

      The Palestinian community might want to ask Islamic Jihad why its fighters were on a quiet street just off Rafah’s Nijmeh Circle next to a school. Why was it that Islamic Jihad needed to endanger the people in the area with its fighters’ presence. No doubt they were on a military mission and trying to evade Israeli detection.

      The Israeli Air force has struck terrorists riding motorcycles on their way to attack Israel without causing substantial collateral damage to bystanders much less cause the death of 10 people.

      It is very likely that the Islamic Jihad terrorists were in possession of explosives, maybe suicide vests filled with pieces of metal, which exploded when they were hit causing death and destruction to the ten people.

      The Palestinian community might now want to demand their fighters surrender their arms and invest in hospitals and healthcare. If they do not, then the Palestinian community can expect a repeat in Gaza War IV coming to a theater of War near them soon.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ara

        This is only a first-hand account of the situation on the ground as witnessed by Samer. He does not offer biased analysis, political propaganda or conjecture. You, on the other hand, are making use of your fertile imagination and incomplete information to concoct scenarios which would perhaps justify the brutality and carnage and appease the feelings of guilt lingering just beneath the surface.

        Reply to Comment
        • Whiplash

          The uncontroverted evidence is that Israel carried out an air strike on Islamic Jihad terrorists on a motorcycle. In the aftermath of the strike a total of 10 people in the vicinity outside a Palestinian school died. This is sad, but people die as collateral damage in war.

          It is uncontroverted evidence that terrorists use suicide vests, improvised explosive devices, mortar shells, rockets and other materials to fire at Israel and Israeli forces. They are combatants in war. They are legal targets.

          It is uncontroverted evidence that Israel has developed munitions to be fired from planes or drones which are intended to kill the intended target with little or no collateral damage.

          The likelihood that Islamic terrorists were not carrying some type of explosive device is low. The pictures from the scene show a lack of evidence of Israel having dropped a large munition on the area, no large crater, but a small missile. You put one plus one together and you get the answer that the additional deaths were likely caused by the explosives carried by the Islamic Jihad terrorists.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Goldmarx

      And we’re supposed to accept what you’ve posted as fact just on your say-so?

      Anything other than Israeli embassy handouts, the Algemeiner or the Jerusalem Post will be much appreciated for scrutiny.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Whiplash

      How about CNN news network?

      Maan News also reported:

      “The Israeli army acknowledged targeting three Islamic Jihad militants on a motorbike in the “vicinity of an UNRWA school”

      Reply to Comment
      • Goldmarx

        “vicinity of an UNRWA school”

        Oh, I see, so they were in the ‘vicinity’. And what radius qualifies as ‘vicinity’? One mile?Two miles? Ten miles?

        ‘Vicinity’ is one of those words whose definition is flexible, depending on its convenience.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Pedro X

      News. Israel now has a confession from Hamas operative Hussam Qawasme that he gave the orders for the kidnapping of the three Israelis teenagers, collected weapons, raised funding for the attack by the Hamas cell, and assisted Marwan Qaswasme in concealing the bodies by burying them on land he had bought in recent months.

      So much for Hamas denials that they did not kidnap the youths and start the ball rolling in the current crisis.

      Reply to Comment
      • Goldmarx

        And we know this how – both that he is a “Hamas operative” and that the leaders of Hamas gave the orders?

        Let’s see what Ha’aretz or the writers on this blog have to say first.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Pedro X

      Haaretz 24 hour blog reports:

      “Kawasme’s arrest was made public for the first time on Tuesday in a document from an Israeli court case over whether houses belonging to him and two other suspects – who remain at large – should be destroyed as a punitive measure.

      The court document said Kawasme had admitted to helping to organise the kidnapping – securing funding from the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza and purchasing weapons which he passed on to the two other suspects who carried out the attack.

      Kawasme also helped to bury the bodies of the teenagers in a plot of land he had bought a few months earlier, it said.

      Israel has named the other two suspects in the case as Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha.”

      Reply to Comment
    6. Goldmarx

      Good, Pedro X.

      Let’s see how this plays out.

      Reply to Comment
      • JohnW

        Goldie: Hamas didn’t do it.

        Pedro: We have a confession from a Hamas operative admitting to the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teenagers.

        Goldie: “Let’s see what Ha’aretz or the writers on this blog have to say first.”

        Pedro: Quotes from Haaretz, confirming the report.

        Goldie: “Let’s see how this plays out.”

        That’s what Israel is up against with the Goldies of this world. They only believe what they want to believe.

        Reply to Comment