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PHOTOS: Losing your home twice in one war

Photos and text: Basel Yazouri / Activestills

Sixty-year-old Ibrahim Abu Odeh, otherwise known as Abu Alaa, lives in Beit Hanoun, Gaza. He was forced to flee his house with his family and the rest of the residents of Beit Hanoun, who ran in search of “anywhere close, safe, and provides shelter” when the Israelis began striking it. Abu Alaa lives in a three-story building with six apartments. Each one is occupied by one of his five married sons and their families. That makes 33 people in total, 21 of them children.

“We were all gathered on the ground floor,” he says, “to escape the top floors that are more vulnerable to shelling. We were in the last days of Ramadan, we heard heavy explosions all over town and the surrounding areas. The next morning, the shelling got stronger, we heard the neighbors shouting and we saw houses around us hit directly by missiles, which forced everyone to flee in search of safer places, leaving behind everything we own.” Abu Alaa and his family took refuge in a secondary school for boys in the Jabalya refugee camp, where he said living conditions were unbearable.

After two weeks there, when the first humanitarian ceasefire came into effect, some of Beit Hanoun’s residents, including Abu Alaa and his son Alewa, were able to return to the neighborhood. “We found a horrific sight,” he says. “Houses were destroyed on top of each other and you couldn’t tell them apart. At first I thought that our house was ruined, but as we moved forward we saw four houses that partially survived. One of them was ours.” The house was severely damaged from continuous shelling for days. Last week, Abu Alaa and some of his family members returned to the house again, “because living in the school is no life.”

This story was originally published on August 17, 2014 on the Heber website. Since its publication, the family has had to flee once again due to the renewal of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

Abu Alaa makes a fire to prepare tea for the family because there is no gas in the house after the shelling of Beit Hanoun. August 11, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Abu Alaa makes a fire to prepare tea for the family. There has been no gas in the house after the shelling of Beit Hanoun. August 11, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Alewa’s wife prepares dough to bake bread for supper. August 11, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Alewa’s wife prepares dough to bake bread for dinner. August 11, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Abu Odeh’s house appears in the middle, with a damaged facade. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Abu Odeh’s house appears in the middle with a damaged facade. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Abu Odeh family members help clean up the house so they can live there during the temporary ceize-fire. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Abu Odeh family members help clean up the house so they can live there during the temporary ceasefire. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Abu Alaa’s wife, Um Alaa, hand washes clothes because there is no electricity in the house. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Since there is no electricity in the house, Abu Alaa’s wife, Um Alaa, must hand washes clothes. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Abu Alaa stands at his window in the early morning examining what’s left of his neighbourhood. Next to him is one of the rooms of his house, completely destroyed. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Abu Alaa stands at his window in the early hours of the morning, examining what’s left of his neighborhood. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A view from Abu Odeh’s house toward the neighbourhood. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A view from Abu Odeh’s house looking out toward the neighborhood. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Yasmin Abu Odeh, 9 years old, rests against the wall, watching her grandma washing clothes. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Yasmin Abu Odeh, nine years old, rests against the wall, watching her grandmother wash clothes. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Um Alaa bakes breads for breakfast, Augost 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Um Alaa bakes breads for breakfast, August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

The destroyed kitchen of Abu Odeh family, Augost 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

The Abu Odeh family’s destroyed kitchen, August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

The back of the Abu Odeh house, where two rooms on the ground floor were destroyed. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

The back of the Abu Odeh house, where two rooms on the ground floor were destroyed. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Nader Obu Odeh, 6 years old, gathers some wood from destroyed houses to help make a fire. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Six-year-old Nader Obu Odeh gathers some wood from destroyed houses to help make a fire. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Abu Alaa sits with his neighbours exchanging jokes on the occupation army. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Abu Alaa sits and exchanges jokes with is neighbors. August 12, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Related:
How the IDF turned a Palestinian house into a military post
What would Israelis say to families of civilian casualties in Gaza?

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      I must say that I feel a little bit sad for this family. Here the 6 year old kid is digging in the ruins for firewood. His sister is sweeping the floor (or is that the man’s second wife?) The old wife is washing clothes with the water she has carried, she is hanging out the mats, rolling out dough and baking bread. Meanwhile three Palestinian men sit on their doofus and do nothing but tell jokes.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      Not sure why, but this photo essay made me a little optimistic for the people of Gaza. Throughout the utter misery that is Gaza, people’s lives still go on, and they find ways to make their lives livable.

      The last photo of the 3 men smiling for the camera gives me hope for Gaza. I hope this family makes it out of this carnage without any fatalities.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mubarak

      This is beautiful.

      I love it how people laugh and tell jokes among the ruins. Resilient and admirable people.

      Reply to Comment
    4. “The last photo of the 3 men smiling for the camera gives me hope for Gaza.”

      Com’on man, these “three Palestinian men sit on their doofus and do nothing but tell jokes”.

      Pedro X: a cauliflower for a brain and a stone for a heart.

      Reply to Comment
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