[News] Gaza struggles with lack of shelter caused by two Israeli wars
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 7 20:44:25 EST 2015
Gaza struggles with lack of shelter caused by two Israeli wars
Rami Almeghari <http://electronicintifada.net/people/rami-almeghari>
The Electronic Intifada
6 January 2015
Since 2011, Aaed al-Athamna, his wife Asmaa and their six children have
been sheltering in a mud-brick home in the Izbet Abed Rabbo neighborhood
in the northeastern Gaza Strip.
They have been displaced since Israel’s three-week-long “Operation Cast
Lead <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/operation-cast-lead>” assault
which began six years ago.
The area suffered heavy Israeli bombing and shelling in January 2009,
destroying the family’s 230-square-meter cement home.
The al-Athamnas’ life has been similar to that of thousands of families
in the coastal enclave displaced during the Israeli attack six years
ago. The situation has gotten catastrophically worse since Israel’s most
recent attack in the summer, which left more than 2,200 people dead.
“I consider myself lucky compared with tens of thousands of others,”
Aaed, a taxi driver in his mid-thirties, told The Electronic Intifada.
“At least my current home of sand and mud has sheltered my family from
the sun and winter rains, even though it is only 80 square meters [860
square feet],” he said.
The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/un-ocha> now reports
an additional 100,000 people in Gaza have been displaced and need
Damaged in latest Israeli attack
More than 113,000 homes, or 13 percent of Gaza’s housing stock, were
affected by the summer bombardment, with 22,000 units destroyed or
Much of the destruction would have been caused in attacks by barrages of
inaccurate Israeli heavy artillery
But Israel also deliberately targeted private homes on a large scale,
including multi-story apartment buildings, actions Amnesty International
has described as war crimes
It is now winter and Asmaa al-Athamna spends much of her time mopping up
water and trying to keep the house comfortable for Aaed and their four
girls and two boys. Asmaa told The Electronic Intifada that Israeli
shelling in the area over the summer caused cracks in the ceiling that
allow the rain to come through.
“But in general, this home has proved much better than many other metal
boxes,” al-Athamna said, referring to the shipping container homes
donated by international organizations as emergency shelters for some of
the displaced. The metal containers are known for being extremely hot in
summer and bitterly cold in winter.
“Thank God we have a home to protect us,” al-Athamna said as she carried
on with her housework.
Mushrif al-Irr lives in another mud-brick home with eleven members of
his family, also in northeastern Gaza. What’s remarkable is that the
house contains not a drop of cement, nor any steel reinforcement bars
(known as rebar).
“We started living in this home almost one year after the 2008-2009
Israeli war on Gaza,” al-Irr told The Electronic Intifada. “And since
then, we have been living comfortably at all times of the year,
including summer and winter. In summer, the home feels cool, while in
winter it feels warm.”
Cement and rebar are the basic ingredients of construction in Gaza, but
both are in severely short supply due to the siege Israel imposed on
Gaza <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/gaza-siege> in 2007. The UN’s
Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism
brokered after this summer’s assault, has done nothing to ease the
Many Palestinian analysts say the arrangement for strictly monitored
imports simply turns the UN into the enforcer of Israel’s siege.
Al-Irr is full of praise for the sand- and mud-brick houses. “This is a
very creative idea that has helped partially resolve the reconstruction
problem in Gaza,” he said. “I myself have been applying for a cement
home since my home was destroyed in 2009.”
Al-Irr, who is in his early fifties, spoke as he showed The Electronic
Intifada the spot — about two kilometers from the Israel-Gaza boundary —
where his old home had stood.
The initiative to build the mud and sand houses has been backed by UNRWA
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/unrwa>, the UN agency for Palestine
refugees, and a number of other international aid organizations.
Engineer Imad al-Khaldi, a designer of alternative buildings, told The
Electronic Intifada that he had suggested the initiative to UNRWA.
“Back in 2009, I and many others realized the need for speedy
reconstruction of destroyed homes. I had long experience in the field of
alternative construction and I offered my expertise to UNRWA, which had
built several such homes of sand by then,” al-Khaldi said.
Each home costs about thirteen to fourteen thousand dollars to build and
includes three rooms — a small family room, a kitchen and a bathroom
— al-Khaldi explained during an interview at his office in Gaza City.
In his forties, al-Khaldi is the owner of the New Horizons alternative
Al-Khaldi says that using materials from Gaza’s “rich” soil makes sense.
Natural ingredients such as potassium and calcium make the buildings
durable, he says.
“These days I am working on new ideas for using the soil based on the
fact that it contains such substances,” he said. “We’re thinking about
how to build sand bricks and walls that can be installed and uninstalled
While al-Khaldi is excited by these innovations, the number of people
likely to benefit is still a tiny fraction of those in need.
that while it is providing emergency payments for shelter assistance to
39,000 displaced refugee families, its funding for this purpose will
reach zero in January. As of mid-December, the agency said that it was
still sheltering more than 19,000 people in its schools displaced by the
most recent Israeli assault.
After two full-scale Israeli assaults in 2008-2009 and 2014 destroyed
tens of thousands of homes, reconstruction has barely begun, and to
rebuild on such a scale there is still little alternative to traditional
According to estimates by the Palestinian Authority ministry of housing
and construction in the Gaza Strip, only two percent of the $5.4 billion
in reconstruction funds
pledged by international donors last October has actually arrived.
The international charity Oxfam
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/oxfam> has estimated that at the
current glacial pace, reconstruction could take 23 years
The housing shortage doesn’t just apply to the destroyed homes. Gaza was
already suffering from a shortage of some 250,000 units, the housing
ministry estimates, to accommodate its fast-growing population which is
now around 1.8 million.
“In our assessment, Gaza needs at least 5.5 million tons of raw building
materials, including 1.5 million tons of cement alone,” Nabil Abu
Muelik, chairman of the Gaza contractors union, told The Electronic
Yet under the UN Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, a mere 4,000 tons of
cement has entered Gaza since October — that’s less than one quarter of
one percent of the estimated need.
In March 2009, following Operation Cast Lead, donors also pledged
billions to help rebuild Gaza. With the latest pledges, the total
offered is almost ten billion dollars. And yet little has gotten
through. People in Gaza are exasperated that nothing has happened.
“It is deplorable that such little progress has been made given the
enormous scale of needs and massive destruction,” Catherine Essoyan,
Oxfam’s Middle East regional director, said in a recent year-end
“People in Gaza are becoming increasingly and understandably frustrated
at the lack of progress. The international community has repeatedly
failed the people of Gaza,” Essoyan added, “it must not fail them again.”
“I can live in this sand-built home for ten years to come. I prefer
living here than waiting for Godot,” al-Irr said, referring to famous
play by Samuel Beckett.
For tens of thousands of others in Gaza, even such small comfort remains
a distant dream.
/Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the News