One year after the Gaza Strip’s third war with Israel in less than a decade, the possibility of recovery seems very far away. Residents whose homes and communities were destroyed are now paying the price as they experience long delays in reconstruction.
The damage to Gaza over the 50-day war was widespread, leaving the Strip with $1.4bn in direct and indirect damages and $1.7bn in economic losses.
However, as of June 2015, less than one percent of the construction materials needed to rebuild houses have entered Gaza.
In addition to the lasting damage, Gaza must also grapple with the war’s human cost.
More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, of which a quarter were children, and more than 10,000 were injured. Close to 90,000 families woke up to a life of homelessness, and 1.4 million people have needed food assistance
Israel’s latest ceasefire is only the most basic show of restraint in its continuous wave of periodic escalation and unrelenting assault on Gaza.
In Israeli vernacular, these acts of aggression are called “mowing the lawn”, yet last year’s war was described by a senior US military official as “removing the topsoil”.
Israel has been “mowing the lawn” for decades now, not for reasons related to Israel’s security or Hamas, but, according to many Gazans, in order to break Gaza’s spirit and appropriate its land.
When Israel carried out its rain of explosive heads on Gaza, it was simultaneously warning the population to evacuate nearly half of the Strip’s territory. Gaza’s population density is 4,700 people for every square kilometre – compared with 305 people in Israel – and with crossings through Israel and the exit to Egypt closed, there was hardly any route to escape the violence.
The areas severely hit, and those totally destroyed, were located mostly on the outer borders of the Strip with Israel.
A year later, with construction materials prevented from entering and the border areas still in ruins, inhabitants have been forced to either relocate to schools and shelters or rent new homes in more central areas of the Strip.
According to UNOCHA, 485,000 people – 28 percent of the population – were displaced at the height of the war.
Internally displaced people – 87 percent of whom are families – are currently accommodated with host families in rented apartments, prefabricated units, tents and makeshift shelters, or in the rubble of their previous homes, which raise a range of concerns regarding protection
This strategy of destroying buildings and preventing reconstruction shows a pattern of indirect land appropriation by Israel, as well as a continuous attempt to annex and expand Israeli buffer zones at the expense of Palestinian land.
Since the signing of the Oslo Agreement in 1993, Israel has confiscated more than 685,000 dunums (one dunum is equal to 1,000 square metres) of Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, for security reasons and Jewish settlements.
These practices have never ceased and continued unabated for decades.
Therefore, the process of Gaza’s geographic separation and isolation, set in motion by the 1993 Oslo process, strives to splinter the native population into different secluded spaces which are marked conceptually and materially.
This is in fact part of Israel’s plan to annex as much territory as possible from the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip without incorporating the Palestinian population.