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PHOTOS: Living in the ruins of a shattered Gaza neighborhood

Palestinians struggle to survive among the rubble of their neighborhood, Shujaiyeh, which was leveled by Israeli shelling during last month’s offensive.

Photos by: Anne Paq and Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org
Text by: Anne Paq

A Palestinian child stands in a destroyed house in the Shujayea neighborhood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, east of Gaza City, September 4, 2014. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,101 Palestinians were killed, including 495 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian child stands in a destroyed house in the Shujayea neighborhood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, east of Gaza City, September 4, 2014. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,101 Palestinians were killed, including 495 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless. (Activestills.org)

A group of Palestinian men sit in one of the completely destroyed streets in Shujaiyeh, a neighborhood of east of Gaza City. In front of them, a huge area has been reduced to rubble. Water is flowing into the street as one of the pipes has been damaged. Some tried to dig to fix the pipes but did not manage. Palestinians are very ill-equipped to even clean the rubble, as the level of devastation is overwhelming.

Most of them come to their homes during the day, but go to sleep in another area at night. Most of their homes were destroyed. They still struggle to come to grips with what happened. Their once-lively neighborhood was turned into a ghost town, especially at night when complete darkness covers the streets since the electricity infrastructure was destroyed.

When asked about hopes that their homes might be rebuilt soon, one Palestinian man, Maher, shrugs his shoulders and says, “It all depends on politics.” Like many of his neighbors, Maher lost his home. Built floor by floor starting 30 years ago, the 15 other members of his family who lived there are also now homeless.

“All my money went into this house,” he says. Now Maher has to borrow money in order to rent a place for his family. Rent in Gaza has become much more expensive because so many displaced Palestinians are looking for shelter, increasing the demand.

Eastern Shujaiyeh, which is very populated, was one of the most affected areas during the latest Israeli military offensive. On the night of July 19, the bombardment intensified, forcing many residents to flee, including some in their pajamas and with bare feet. On that day alone, Israeli shelling killed more than 60 Palestinians, some of them in the streets. Ambulances were not able to rescue the wounded and many were trapped under the rubble.

Shujaiyeh was again hit very hard during a ceasefire on July 30 when a market area was bombed while many people were shopping. Israeli strikes killed at least 17 and injured 200 that day alone, including medics and journalists.

For many, the evacuation of their homes was traumatic. “There was nothing we could take,” says Maher, recalling the night when he had to leave his home behind. “We saw the situation was getting so much worse. We were running in the street and I saw some people, civilians, killed.”

During the first ceasefire, he returned to discover that his house had been destroyed.

Home is more than just a building where you sleep. It is your emotional anchor. Many Palestinians take pride in having built their homes themselves and they consider it to be one of their life’s biggest achievements. The loss cannot be measured in the monetary value of the building.

Asked about his feelings, Maher shrugs his shoulder again. “How can one describe his feelings when he finds his home destroyed?”

A tent sits amid a completely flattened area of Shujayea neighborhood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A tent sits amid a completely flattened area of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Maher, a resident of  Shujayea neighborhood, stands in front of his destroyed house in an area which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive,  east of Gaza city, September 4, 2014. Maher was living in his house for 30 years before it was destroyed. Fifteen other members of his family were living in the building. He currently rents a flat while waiting for his home to be rebuilt. (Activestills.org)

Maher, a resident of Shujaiyeh neighborhood, stands in front of his destroyed house in an area which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, east of Gaza city, September 4, 2014. Maher lived in his house for 30 years before it was destroyed. Fifteen other members of his family were living in the building. He currently rents a flat while waiting for his home to be rebuilt. (Activestills.org)

A destroyed classroom in Sobhi Abu Karesh governmental school; which was damaged by an Israeli attack during the latest offensive, in Shujayea neighborhood, east of Gaza city, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A destroyed classroom in Sobhi Abu Karesh governmental school, which was damaged by an Israeli attack during the latest offensive, in Shujaiyeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian carries jugs of water through a destroyed section of the Shujayea neighborhood, east of Gaza city, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian carries jugs of water through a destroyed section of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A banner hangs from the rubble of Al Wafa Hospital in the Shujayea neighborood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, in Shujayea neighborhood, east of Gaza city, September 4, 2014. The Israeli military completely destroyed the Al Wafa rehabilitation and geriatric hospital on July 23, 2014, after weeks of missile strikes  forced the evacuation of patients, caregivers and hospital staff. (Activestills.org)

A banner hangs from the rubble of Al Wafa Hospital in the Shujayea neighborhood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, in Shujaiyeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City, September 4, 2014. The Israeli military completely destroyed the Al Wafa Rehabilitation and Geriatric Hospital on July 23, 2014, after weeks of missile strikes forced the evacuation of patients, caregivers and hospital staff. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians look out from a damaged house in Shujayea neighborhood, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians look out from a damaged house in Shujaiyeh neighborhood, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians search among the rubble in a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborhood, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians search among the rubble in a destroyed quarter of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A pile of various parts of Israeli shells, bombs, and mortars collected in Sobhi Abu Karesh governmental school which was damaged by an Israeli attack during the latest offensive, in Shujayea neighborood, east of Gaza city, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A pile of various parts of Israeli shells, bombs, and mortars collected in Sobhi Abu Karesh governmental school, which was damaged by an Israeli attack during the latest offensive, in Shujaiyeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

The sentence "All you need is boom!!!" as well as a portion of Psalm 18 in Hebrew which reads, "I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed," are followed by an obscene fake attribution to the Prophet Mohammad written on the wall of a Palestinian home by Israeli soldiers during their latest offensive in Shujayea neighborood which was heavily attacked,  east of Gaza city, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

The sentence “All you need is boom!!!” as well as a portion of Psalm 18 in Hebrew, which reads, “I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed,” are followed by an obscene fake attribution to the Prophet Mohammad written on the wall of a Palestinian home by Israeli soldiers during their latest offensive in Shujaiyeh neighborhood, which was heavily attacked, east of Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian child looks outside from a damaged house in Shujayea neighborood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian child looks outside from a damaged house in Shujaiyeh neighborhood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. The family hung curtains where walls were blown out. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman stands near laundry hanging over a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman sits near laundry hanging over a destroyed quarter of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Youth walk among the rubble in a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, in Shujayea neighborood, east of Gaza city, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Youth walk among the rubble in a destroyed quarter of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, east of Gaza City, September 4, 2014. (Activestills.org)

A member of the Atesh family prepares coffee by flashlight in her partially destroyed home in Shujayea neighborhood, Gaza City, September 5, 2014. The family came back after the announcement of the truce. They have no electricity nor water. (Activestills.org)

A member of the Atesh family prepares coffee illuminated by a flashlight in her partially destroyed home in the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, Gaza City, September 5, 2014. The family came back after the announcement of the truce. They have no electricity or water. (Activestills.org)

Hamde Atesh sits near the fire in his half-destroyed home in  Shujayea neighborood, Gaza City, September 5, 2014. His family fled their home on July 12 after the Israeli military called to warn them to evacuate before they bombed the building next door. homeless. (Activestills.org)

Hamde Atesh sits near a fire in his half-destroyed home in Shujaiyeh neighborhood, Gaza City, September 5, 2014. His family fled their home on July 12 after the Israeli military called to warn them to evacuate before they bombed the building next door. (Activestills.org)

Members of the Atesh family sit in a room lighted by a candle in their partially destroyed home in Shujayea neighborood, Gaza City, September 5, 2014.  Due to the Israeli attacks, the electricity infrastructure has been damaged and most homes have no electricity or water. (Activestills.org)

Members of the Atesh family sit in a room lit by a candle in their partially destroyed home in Shujaiyeh neighborhood, Gaza City, September 5, 2014. Due to the Israeli attacks, the electricity infrastructure has been damaged and most homes have no electricity or water. (Activestills.org)

Related:
Homeless and widowed: One Gazan’s tragic story
The victors of the Gaza war were also the losers

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    COMMENTS

    1. Hyman Rosen

      The methods used by Hamas are ineffective. Regardless of whether one believes that they are justified, it is obvious that in no sense do they work; they result in extra misery to the inhabitants of Gaza from Israeli attacks without changing the political situation. Continuing to hope for a military victory will doom Palestinians to endless futile cycles of destruction.

      Reply to Comment
    2. bor

      The fanatics from Hamas brings this on their own people with their wish to destroy Israel.

      http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4676/hamas-west-bank

      For example, let’s all agree that we want these now-homeless people to have homes. How, exactly, do we allow concrete in to build these homes when we ALL know PRECISELY how it will be used?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Pedro X

      “They still struggle to come to grips with what happened.”

      It must be difficult to come to grips with reality when Gazans are told that they won the war yet see the results of the war all around them.

      It must be hard to come to grips with reality that all the rockets they cheered when fired from their neighborhoods did not inflict the death and destruction of Israel they hoped.

      It must be hard for Gazans to come to grips with the reality that Hamas used them, and they allowed Hamas to use them, as human shields for Hamas’ military machine. They saw Hamas building tunnels and installing rocket launchers in or next to peoples’ homes. They knew their mosques, hospitals and schools had been used as command centers, rocket depots, firing positions and bases for military operations. Yet they supported Hamas and continue to support Hamas.

      It must be hard to come to terms of reality, when Hamas’ promises of change in Gaza, has meant change for the worst.

      It must be difficult to come to grips with reality when after the destruction Gazans suffered, the majority of Palestinians think it is a good idea to shoot rockets at Israel and such tactics should be transferred to the West Bank.

      It must be hard to come to grips with reality when Gazans forgot the harsh realities of what happens to them when they make war or send terrorists to hurt Israelis.

      Now here is the bad news for Gazans, if they do not get a grip on reality and make Hamas and the other terrorist organizations to give up resistance and arms, it is only a short manner of time until Palestinians will have to deal with another of their many self inflicted disasters.

      Reply to Comment
    4. If Hamas turned into a peace loving bunch of flower hugging hippies it would not change Israel’s approach to the Palestinian question by one iota.

      Over 500,000 settlers weren’t allowed and incentivised to colonise the WB and E. J’lem from 1967 to the present day because of Hamas. Or because of Fatah. Or because of the PLO.

      No, that colonial project was the Zionist plan from day zero. For the first 20 years or so after 1967 the WB Palestinians didn’t even significantly protest. But the colonisation did not stop and their lot did not improve.

      Israel just wants the dispossessed to be quiet and hopes that one day by sheer miracle they’ll go away.

      The idea that Hamas could actually damage, let alone destroy Israel, is risible to the umpteenth degree. Israel is a veritable superpower militarily speaking. Kalashnikovs and home made rockets won’t put a dent in its armour. In return the IDF takes to Hamas like a pneumatic hammer to a crumbly nut.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jan

      I wonder how many people who damn Hamas for the rockets would like to live for year after year under a brutal military occupation, an occupation that imprisons, deports or kills members of your family, that demolishes your home, that destroys your olive trees and agricultural land, that treats you as subhuman.

      I wonder how many would like to live under the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza after Hamas was elected. How many would be thrilled with the drones constantly patrolling the skies or the sonic booms unleashed by F16s. How many would be happy with the statement by an Israeli minister that Israel didn’t want you to starve to death but would put you on a diet. Would you be happy to be locked into the world’s largest outdoor prison with every means of escape closed off to you? Would you be happy if your very bright student who had received a Fulbright scholarship to a US university was forbidden to leave? And how about if your family was in the West Bank and you were not allowed to see them or live together. If you were a farmer would you be happy when your jailers would not let you export your crops and let your crops stay on a truck until they perished? And how would you like it when the occupiers occasionally shot and killed some of your family, including children?

      I don’t think any of you would like any of that and I suspect that you would want to hurl more than puny rockets at those who have oppressed and occupied you for over 47 years.

      Maybe you need to learn what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians both in the West Bank and Gaza before you damn the victims of Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Hyman Rosen

        African-Americans faced the same choice; they could follow Malcolm X and try to win through violence, or follow Martin Luther King and appeal to the consciences of their oppressors through non-violent resistance. It doesn’t matter that Palestinians feel justified in attacking Israel, because they lack the power to do so, and their attacks are multiplied back against them a hundredfold. If Palestinians cannot bring themselves to embrace peaceful resistance for its own sake, they should do so because it is the only way possible for them to gain anything.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ignorant of Malcom X’s trajectory. He broke with the Nation of Islam over corruption and, upon returning from hajj, began to reverse his exclusionist ethic. He was assassinated before whatever new view he had could mature.

          African Americans experienced nothing like the massive violence Gazans have endured. Nor were they excluded from the arena of nonviolence as Gazans are. The Civil Rights movement engaged authority directly, in person; this is nigh impossible in most cases even in the WB. If you want nonviolence, you must open yourselves up to receive it, as target. Coming over the Wall with skunk cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets isn’t doing that. Nonviolence targets individuals one is socially economically connected to; if you look at WB policy, you will see such connection is intentionally limited or dismantled.

          Don’t suffocate people and tell them not to claw. That’s not how life works. If you want nonviolence, be prepared for the possibility of losing; that’s how the law grows.

          Reply to Comment
        • Jan

          Israel does not want any resistance be it violent or non-violent to the occupation and to its intent to take over as much of the land of the West Bank as possible with as few Palestinians on that land as possible.When it comes to appealing to the conscience of the settlers it is a lost cause. Most of them have no conscience. Nor do the people in the Israeli government.

          Way back in 1983 Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian American who had been born in Jerusalem came to the West Bank where he founded the Palestine Centre for the Teaching of Non-Violence. Now one might think that the Israeli government would like non-violence but they would be wrong. In spite of protests from the Reagan State Department, Awad was deported.

          Over the past several years villages such as Bi’ilin and Ni’iln have held non-violent demonstrations against the theft of their lands. Those demonstrations are alway met with violence by the IDF who hurl tear gas canisters and shoot both rubber and real bullets. People are also arrested and a few killed.

          I wish that every Palestinian would get up and walk to the checkpoints, walk onto the Jewish only roads and sit down. I wish that they would stop building the Jewish only settlements, stop doing anything that would benefit Israel.

          I don’t think that there is anything they could do that would shame Israel into ending the damned evil occupation.

          Over the years people have asked where is the Palestinian Ghandi. He is either rotting in an Israeli prison, has been deported or is dead thanks to an IDF bullet or bomb.

          Reply to Comment
          • Hyman Rosen

            The actual Gandhi was imprisoned too. The South African Gandhi was imprisoned for decades. The demonstrations in Bi’ilin are not non-violent; Palestinians throw stones at Israelis. The problem for Palestinians is that decades of their useless violence have persuaded Israeli Jews that Palestinians are stupid and disgusting savages who murder babies and think that they will win a war with the help of talking trees. The only thing that will help Palestinians is if they can get that attitude to change and to be seen as human and worthy of dignity, and every act of violence they commit gives Israel an excuse to disregard that. Everyone here likes to enclose “the most moral army in the world” in irony quotes, but a country that sees itself that way, that leaflets, and “knocks on the roof” before (some) attacks, is eminently susceptible to being shamed by non-violence into behaving properly.

            Reply to Comment

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