Analysis News

In Gaza, fears of a new war stir old traumas

Still recovering from the last war, some still living in its rubble, Gazans mull the uncertainty of what comes next — ceasefire or more devastation. In recent months, Israel has almost completely blocked any construction materials entering into Gaza.

Amjad Yaghi

By Amjad Yaghi

GAZA CITY – In the village of Abasan in the southern Gaza Strip, Hussein Shaheen’s family still lives in rubble. Their house was destroyed during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, and they haven’t rebuilt it since.

Since Gazans started the Great Return March several months ago, Israel has been retaliating with force, and tensions are high once again. Israel and Hamas are reportedly in the advanced stages of negotiating a ceasefire, but the constant uncertainty of whether the situation will change for better or worse, of whether Gazans should prepare for easements or escalation, induces severe anxiety. The 2014 military offensive and its consequences still haunt the residents of Gaza, and to them, the possibility of another war triggers painful memories.

Shaheen, 38, lives with his wife, Samaher Abu Jamea, 33, and toddler daughter, Salma, in tents they set up amid the rubble. After the war, they approached the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Gaza for assistance in reconstructing their house, without success.

“For four years, we have been living and eating in the rubble.” Jamea said. “We have gone many times to the ministry to demand that they accelerate the construction of our house, but unfortunately, many obstacles stand in their way,” she added, referring to Israel’s restrictions on the entry of construction materials into Gaza.

The Shaheen family shares a meal next to the rubble of their house, which was destroyed in Israel's 2014 military offensive on Gaza. They haven't been able to reconstruct it since. (Mohamed Al Hajjar)

The Shaheen family shares a meal next to the rubble of their house, which was destroyed in Israel’s 2014 military offensive on Gaza. They haven’t been able to reconstruct it since. (Mohamed Al Hajjar)

Since the 2014 war, Israel has suspended imports of building materials several times, which has created a backlog in the reconstruction of housing projects. The restrictions imposed by Israel vary from closing the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza, to barring materials like cement and piping, reducing the number of trucks that can cross carrying materials, and even cutting electricity, fuel, and water supplies.

By July 2018, nine thousand of 11,000 housing units that were totally destroyed in the last war were rebuilt, and half of the 160,000 units that incurred partial damaged were repaired, according to Undersecretary of the Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Gaza, Naji Sarhan.

The political situation has affected donors, who know that due to the closures it is difficult to send the most basic construction materials. Many international pledges for reconstruction funds have not been met, Sarhan said. As of last month, only 40 percent of the $4 billion that was pledged to rebuild has actually been provided, he added.

“The Gazan community does not want a war, but it is the victim of a suffocating Israeli blockade that has recently intensified,” Sarhan said.



That intensity is accompanied by feelings of despair. When people are promised access to rehabilitation and better living conditions over and over but those promises are not delivered, they lose hope. When four years go by and living conditions remain unchanged, that hope becomes harder to hold on to.

The people of Gaza are not only struggling to rebuild their houses, but also their lives. Gaza’s Shuja’iyya neighborhood was one of the areas to suffer the most damage and fatalities; 507 people were killed and thousands were injured there in the 2014 war, according to the United Nations.

That summer, Moeen Hilles escaped the bombing of the Shuja’iyya neighborhood with his family of six, and sought shelter in one of the UNRWA schools in coastal Al-Remal. His daughters, Aya, eight, and Maryam, 11, received psychological treatment for the trauma they experienced, but even today, when they hear shelling, it takes them back to that war.

“I stand helpless in front of their screams,” said Hilles.

“Aya was four years old, but she doesn’t forget the fear and terror she suffered from the Israeli war,” he continued. “Maryam could hear airplanes and tanks, and this is terrifying for children. They do not want war. They wait to grow up and live life as they see on cartoons.”

With the prospect of another war brewing, post-traumatic anxiety has intensified among Gazans, according to Fadel Ashour, a professor of psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine at Al-Azhar University. He said the trauma has built up over generations, and hundreds of patients have been visiting his clinic in recent months.

“Sounds of reconnaissance aircraft as well as the spread of bad news create a state of instability. They activate the symptoms of the previous shock and fear of recurrence,” said Ashour.

Ali Akram Abu Shanab, 21, from Shuja'iyya, Gaza, had difficulty continuing his secondary education due to trauma from the 2014 Gaza war. In July, he graduated with excellence from the University College of Applied Science. (Mohamed Al Hajjar)

Ali Akram Abu Shanab, 21, from Shuja’iyya, Gaza, had difficulty continuing his secondary education due to trauma from the 2014 Gaza war. In July, he graduated with excellence from the University College of Applied Science. (Mohamed Al Hajjar)

Ali Akram Abu Shanab, 21, from Shuja’iyya, saw his grandmother and uncle die in the 2014 war.

“We were in the family house with 17 people, most of them children, and my father decided to send us out in three groups, so that we could leave with the least human damage. When we left, the shelling increased,” Abu Shanab recalls.

As he was escaping the bombing with his younger sister, he witnessed a house collapse and crush his grandmother and uncle.

“I was shocked but continued to run away from the building and the bodies of my grandmother and uncle until I reached an ambulance, which took me to Shifa Hospital,” he recalled.

Abu Shanab had difficulty completing his secondary education due to his PTSD but in July, he graduated with excellence from the University College of Applied Science.

For people like Abu Shanab, who have found ways to persevere despite the trauma, the possibility of another war means potentially losing everything they’ve accomplished since.

“I do not deny the fear of war while we haven’t recovered from the memories of the past war, and our home and the homes of many need reconstruction,” he said.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      Re-Egyptianization is the only sane solution.

      Reply to Comment
    2. spritz

      Lifting the siege hasn’t crossed your mind?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ido

        There was no blockade after Israel’s withdrawal. There was one after Hamas declared war on Israel and attacked it. Hamas, who openly call for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews.
        Also Gaza has a border with a country other than Israel, for some reason people forget this little fact.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          How’s the mindless “dumb, clueless liar” schtick working out for you vis a vis Betz Uber? Not so well, I see. Ido Geller, people don’t IGNORE you, they DISCOUNT you. There is a difference. (Talk about narcissism!)

          Oh, and regarding simplistic slogans about Egypt, borders and the occupation, you need to study the ‘Yeah, Right’ tutorial on international law, Gaza and its occupation here:

          Lewis from Afula was a difficult pupil but with encouragement he made it all the way through the class.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            “Not so well” – you mean besides literally listing all the parts where she was a clueless liar ? in detail ? quoting her saying idiotic lying nonsense ? which she didn’t touch once ? oh yes, terrible.Sounds familiar ?
            “they DISCOUNT you” – of course they do. Hey, I don’t mind that you’re lying to yourself about people not being able to face reality, you sure don’t seem to able to do so yourself as I prove over and over and over again. I just find it extremely pathetic.
            “simplistic slogans about Egypt” – hilarious. a simple fact which is ignored is now “simplistic slogans”.
            If you find a way to surgically take out the Islamic Jihadist terrorists who attack my country out of the innocent population they use as human shields I’ll gladly pass it to the IDF.
            “Lewis from Afula was a difficult pupil” – apparently you’re clueless about who controls the border between Egypt and Gaza like the guy he was talking to.
            Posted the actual updated Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) in the Facebook comments section. and I quote:
            “Israel does not have the ability to prohibit any Palestinian moving through the crossing. Israel does however have the ability to submit written information on “persons of concern”. Upon receipt of such information the PA shall consult with the GoI and the 3rd party prior to making a decision.”
            The agreement ensured Israel authority to dispute entrance by any person. But Israel did not see the necessity to use this procedure and Egypt has the final say in the matter.
            You’re wrong. Again.
            And apparently people still can’t tell the difference between occupation and a blockade.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            No, I didn’t mean that.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            That’s what your link about ‘Lewis from Afula’ is about. So you didn’t post that ? you didn’t write that what said about Egypt is a “simplistic slogan”? I provided the evidence for what I said, feel free to challenge it. So you also didn’t post the rest of the hilarious nonsense ? about me detailing Betz Uber’s clueless lies which nearly made me choke laughing so hard (“not well”) ? about people ignoring facts proving they have no idea what they’re talking about (“no, no they don’t ignore your explanation how they are clueless liars, they discount you, yeah that’s the ticket!).

            See this is why I keep returning to this site. Clueless brainwashed clowns like you and Miss Uber are great for a good laugh.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            On the clueless hilarious lying idiot schtick, the signature Geller-blather, I concur with the judgment made already by Betz Uber. No need to repeat the obvious.

            I think that Yeah, Right’s analysis of what constitutes occupation (none of which is contravened by the several vague statements you make about Israel’s actual control and possible control (what Israel reserves the right to do and *can* do) over Gaza); plus the facts about Israel’s direct or indirect control over the Rafah crossing and over much else besides laid out here,

            plus the facts contained in the AMA about Israel indirectly forcing the closing of the crossings, all refute the case you are trying to make.

            All of which is anyway a distraction by way of Egypt. A missing of the forest for the trees (trees that you mischaracterized anyway) and that was well explained on the other page in regards to international law (by Yeah, Right): Gaza is occupied to this day and Israel is the occupier.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            How does proving in detail when someone is a clueless liar, literally listing his/hers clueless brainwashed lies backed by evidence, is a “schtick” ?
            “signature Geller” – definitely. Explaining and proving when someone said something incorrect, when someone lies, backing it with evidence, sure.
            “I concur with the judgment made already by Betz Uber” – You also like her ignore posts where I literally explain like to a child how you were wrong, where you lied, how you have no idea what you’re talking about. What are the odds ?
            “I think that Yeah, Right’s analysis” – then you, like him, have no idea what the difference between a blockade and occupation is.
            “the Rafah crossing and over much else besides laid out here” – I always love it when you bring links which contradict your own attempt at argument.
            From your own link “The agreement ensured Israel authority to dispute entrance by any person. Apparently, Israel did not see the necessity to use this procedure”. This is under ‘Agreement on Movement and Access’, I posted the actual document in the Facebook comments section, which you ignored (sorry, “discounted”), I literally quoted the section which says who actually has control over the crossing (Egypt) which you of course igno-, i mean “discounted”. Sorry.
            “Israel indirectly forcing the closing of the crossings” – you link itself contradicts you, the agreement itself contradicts you. The closing of the border is usually the result of the Egyptians responding to what Hamas was doing on their turf, like for example the terrorism in Sinai.
            “Gaza is occupied to this day and Israel is the occupier” – Hamas themselves contradict you, do you understand ? the theocratic Jihadist terrorists controlling Gaza claim Gaza is not occupied, see the link I posted to Betz Uber as evidence. How is this so difficult to grasp ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You are an endless fount of deception and outright nonsense (Geller-blather):

            “On 12 February 2007, PLO Negotiatior Saeb Erekat complained in a letter to the Israeli Government and the Head of the EU Mission about Israel, closing the Rafah Crossing Point (RCP) on most days by indirect measures, such as “preventing access by the EU BAM to the RCP through Kerem Shalom”.[17] A 2007 Palestinian background paper mentions the EU concern over crises, “most often caused by the continual Israeli closure of the Crossing”.[10] On 7 May 2007, the issue of the Israeli closure of Rafah and Kerem as well was raised at a Coordination and Evaluation meeting. The movement of ambulances via Rafah was prohibited. […] According to a 2009 report of Gisha, Israel continued to exercise control over the border through its control of the Palestinian population registry, which determines who is allowed to go through Rafah Crossing. It also had the power to use its right to veto the passage of foreigners, even when belonging to the list of categories of foreigners allowed to cross, and to decide to close the crossing indefinitely. [19]… Gisha has blamed Israel for keeping the Rafah Crossing closed through indirect means and Egypt for submitting to Israeli pressure and not cooperate with the Hamas government…. The EU monitoring force was criticized for its submission to Israel’s demands for closing the border, without calling for re-opening….
            Currently, Israel forces the crossing to close by refusing to allow the
            EU monitors access to Rafah through Kerem Shalom (in contravention of the
            agreement). …”

            All of this mischaracterization of yours is still subsumed within the Rafa Crossing/Egyptian border distracting subset, and has nothing to do with Yeah, Right’s definitive treatment of the occupation of Gaza under international law, which you have not begun to counter. Because you can’t.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            Your post is relevant to the time period when the AMA was discontinued following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007, when the violence and inner Palestinian conflict made it impossible to implement the AMA and it was discontinued, also following the Gilad Shalit kidnapping. I’m sure you are familiar with what happened then, right ?
            Due to the events happening at the time Israel did control the Rafah crossing again, this is detailed in the link I posted in the Facebook section (the actual Rafah report by Gisha, page 120).
            Egypt has been the only party that can have the final decision when Rafah is opened (page #126).
            Egypt considers itself committed to the AMA even though it states the the PA should control the Palestinian side per the agreement and Hamas (literally) threw them out (sometimes from tall buildings).
            They also didn’t consider Hamas as a legal regime following their takeover of Gaza which resulted in a closed border other than humanitarian occasions.
            Like I already said: today Israel can dispute entrance by any person but Egypt has the final say in the matter as stated very clearly by the document from the organization you yourself quoted.
            So your posts did nothing but strengthen the fact that you have no idea what you’re talking about. Bravo.

            “occupation of Gaza under international law” – how deep does denial of reality goes when someone can’t comprehend the difference between blockade and occupation ? this is amazing.
            “you have not begun to counter” – not only did I explain how you are wrong, I provided evidence of Hamas themselves explaining how you’re wrong. Do you understand ? Hamas themselves, very, very clearly, with an actual explanation, claim Gaza is not occupied by Israel. I’ll add more links to this in the Facebook comments section.
            Let’s see how many times you’re going to ignore, sorry “discount” this evidence.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “…Due to the events happening at the time Israel did control the Rafah crossing again…”

            Thanks. You just confirmed the heart and soul of what Yeah, Right argued:

            “International Humanitarian Law is quite clear that what matters is whether the occupier *can* exercise his authority over an occupied territory, it matters not one bit whether the occupier *is* or *isn’t* currently exercising that authority….
            Repeat after me: it doesn’t matter if the occupying power chooses *not* to exercise its authority. What matters is that the occupying power *can* exercise its authority if and when it chooses to do so.
            The Agreement on Movement and Access has Israel clearly putting down markers that regardless of disengagement is *does* still have authority over the Gaza Strip and *can* exercise that authority if/when it chooses to do so.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            “You just confirmed the heart and soul of what Yeah, Right” – I confirmed you had no idea your post was referring to a specific incident which happened in 2007 when the agreement was put on hold when Hamas violently took over Gaza and after that, just like now, Egypt is the ones controlling the Rafah crossing, not Israel. This is explained in detail in the evidence I provided. If Egypt is willing to accept Israel’s demand to close the border for example following Gilad Shalit’s kidnapping, that is their decision. Their choice.
            You are of course ignoring the fact that Egypt are no big fans of Hamas for multiple reasons. Mainly because Hamas are an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the sworn enemies of Egypt’s current dictator. And they are responsible for terrorism in Sinai.
            Do you understand ? how is this complicated for you to grasp ? Egypt controls the Rafah border crosing, not Israel. Especially now that the PA is again in control of the Palestinian side, fulfilling the Palestinians’ side of the agreement. Unless hamas again threw them out.

            “whether the occupier” – Again: Gaza is not occupied. Hamas themselves very, very clearly admit it. I proved this to you and you still cling to this lying nonsense. This is amazing. It’s called a blockade. Lie to yourself as much as you like, that is not going to change.
            If the border is closed it’s because Egypt chose to close it. Their choice as per the agreement. Do you understand ?
            I like how you again ignored, Sorry, “discounted”, the evidence I provided proving everything I said including your obvious cluelessness about the time the agreement wasn’t in effect and why that happened which lead to Israel again controlling the border.
            All detailed very clearly in the link I provided, taken from your own source no less.
            Lie to yourself as much as you like, “discount” evidence and facts as much as you like, they are not going to change.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            This is a lot of Egyptian border chaff you’re frantically throwing out of the back of your airplane to try to keep my heat-seeking missile about the Israeli occupation of Gaza from locking on to your argument but we locked on several posts back. Too late. (As for the content of the chaff itself it does not matter that it was 2007. This does not undermine Yeah, Right’s basic point. Or mine. Israel, the occupier, *can* and *will* close the Rafah crossing by indirect or direct methods whenever it feels like it. It bombs the Egyptian-Gaza border at will and just did it near Rafah in the past year. Why is that so hard for you to understand? Note this is a parenthetical statement. The missile already locked on and fulfilled its mission and your broader non-Egyptian argument is a smoking ruin spiraling to earth and we’ve returned to base.)

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            Look, this is very, very simple: the border of Gaza with Egypt is controlled by Egypt on the Egyptian side. Your own source very clearly verifies this. You are again contradicting yourself.
            Israel may ask Egypt to close the border and Egypt can agree to do דם, there is no great affection between Egypt and Hamas, but, and this is the important part so try to pay attention and not “discount” it: the final word belongs to Egypt. They control the border.
            This is explained in detail in the evidence I provided (which you of course ignored). Ignore this fact as much as you like, it is not going to change.

            “it does not matter that it was 2007” – yes it does you clueless moron, that was a very specific time (Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza) when the agreement was discontinued. I literally spelled this out for you, how can you not grasp this by now ? this is amazing, really.
            Again: Egypt controls the Rafah border on the Egyptian side. Your own source confirms this. Your own source details why the agreement was put on hold during the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas. Do you understand ? how is this difficult for you to grasp ?
            “Israel, the occupier” – Again: Hamas themselves contradict you, Hamas themselves admit Gaza is not occupied, how can you not understand this ? is the evidence too subtle ? please explain this because this goes beyond denial of reality.
            And apparently you have a problem understanding the difference between a blockade and an occupation. Hamas’ explanation in the links I provided is too difficult to understand ?
            “can* and *will* close the Rafah” – Again: Israel can ask Egypt to close it, sure, but it is Egypt’s decision. Do you understand ? not Israel, Egypt. I explained this to you several times, your own source of information explains this very clearly and you are still in denial about this. Remarkable.
            “It bombs the Egyptian-Gaza border” – Sure, Israel attacked terrorist cells in Sinai when they bombed Israel, Israel didn’t enter Gaza or Sinai to do this, minor details I know, but that doesn’t change the fact that Egypt controls the entrance to their own country, do you understand ?
            “Why is that so hard for you to understand?” – it isn’t, I just spelled it out for you what actually happened and how this is not related to who controls the Rafah border on the Egyptian side.
            “your broader non-Egyptian argument is a smoking ruin spiraling to earth” – are you on acid or something ? this would explain so much, how you can’t grasp simple facts especially when your own evidence literally spell it out for you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You’re very funny. I know you don’t mean to be. But you are. If someone else quoted some “Israel Today” propaganda puff piece seizing on a single statement of some Hamas honcho somewhere in 2012 in some momentary political war of words with the rival PA, you’d be the first to call him “a stupid clueless liar for quoting the meaningless lying political propaganda of Hamas and what an idiot and are you really this stupid blah blah blah.” But here you are, genius at law, citing Hamas the authoritative experts on the international law of occupation!

            Finally we end up where it ended with Lewis from Afula:
            You really don’t understand any of this do you?
            (Or you pretend you don’t. Either way is good with me.)

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            “some Hamas honcho” – Right, the co-founder of Hamas itself and one of its top leaders in Gaza, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, is just “some Hamas honcho”. What does he know, right ?
            Do you understand that saying ridiculous nonsense like this does nothing but paint you as a clueless joke ? I understand that you must lie to try and dismiss the evidence but this is ridiculous.
            “in some momentary political war of words” – why, anything he said actually changed ? Israel is now in Gaza ? he stated a simple fact: Gaza has been freed from occupation. That didn’t change. Now there is a blockade but a blockade is not an occupation.
            I only repeated this 6 or so times so I understand why you are still struggling with this fact.
            “the first to call him” – no, I call him an Islamic Jihadist terrorist who calls for the elimination of my country and the murder of my people because that’s what he is.
            “citing Hamas the authoritative experts” – right, why would Hamas, absolute rulers of Gaza, know anything about what is happening with Hamas and in Gaza ? that’s preposterous!
            “on the international law of occupation” – you misspelled blockade again.
            “You really don’t understand any of this do you” – I understand it very well as I proved to you in detail about 6 or 7 times. I understand how you ignored my posts proving in detail how you are wrong about Egypt backed with evidence, evidence based on the source you yourself quoted. I understand how you were wrong about your evidence, not realizing it was specific to a certain time when the agreement was discontinued due to Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza as I explained to you in detail backed by evidence multiple times, which you of course ignored. Sorry, “discounted”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Yes, discounted, not if ignored, because none of it holds water. Never has. (It’s also funny how you seemingly hang out here waiting for me. I go away for 24 hours and you typically pounce on my replies within ten minutes! But never mind. Far be it from me to tell you how to run your personal life.)

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            Hilarious.. again with the “discounted”.

            Ben: *clueless lying nonsense*.
            Ido: no it isn’t. here’s the detailed explanation why you are wrong backed by evidence. feel free to challenge it.
            Ben: *crickets chirping*
            Ido: ?
            Ben: no, no I’m not ignoring you showing in detail how I’m a clueless liar backed by evidence, I’m discounting it! yes! that’s the ticket!

            That’s why I enjoy our little chats. always entertaining.

            “I go away for 24 hours and you typically pounce on my replies within ten minutes!” – You know what ? sure, why not. let’s ignore common sense and say I am, because I find you so entertaining.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            But isn’t this the refrain of every internet troll? “Crickets chirping!…Oh why won’t you pay attention to me?!”

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            Why are you lying again ? explaining how you’re a clueless liar backed by evidence which you ignore is not “why won’t you pay attention to me”. It’s me proving in detail backed by evidence how you’re a clueless liar. Can you be any more pathetic ?
            Not to mention that some of my evidence was taken from your own source, proving how you had no idea what you were posting, which you ignored of course. I mean “discounted”.

            Reply to Comment
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