Liala Kloob, her unemployed husband and their six children sleep on cots in the Abu Assi School in a Gaza Strip refugee camp.
A year ago, her husband worked as a tailor and they owned a house. But Israeli airstrikes destroyed their home and her husband’s storefront during the 51-day war last summer with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza.
“You cannot imagine life in a school with about a 100 other families,” said Kloob, who depends on United Nations aid to survive. “The only available solution for my family is staying at the school. We have to stand in a line and wait our turn to get food, water or even to go to the bathroom.”
Eight months after the war’s end, Kloob is among 100,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who are still homeless, the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) said in a report this month.
Their plight reflects a painfully slow post-war reconstruction effort hampered by ongoing economic embargoes of the territory by Israel and Egypt, promised aid from donor nations failing to arrive and political conflicts among the Palestinians.
“No one pays any attention to us,” said Alaa Abu-Lahyah, who lost his home and seven relatives, including four young children, in the summer war. “We just keep hearing repeatedly about reconstruction funds, but we don’t notice any practical and realistic steps toward reconstruction.”
The war erupted after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June by two men with links to Hamas. That prompted an Israeli crackdown in Gaza, from where Hamas fired rockets at Israel. Israel responded with airstrikes and then a ground offensive to destroy the rockets and tunnels Hamas used to smuggle in arms and send fighters into Israel.
The United States and Israel label Hamas as a terrorist organization.
During the seven-week conflict, nearly 2,200 Palestinians died, roughly 70% of them civilians, according to the United Nations; 71 Israelis died, five of them civilians.
The U.N. estimates that 178,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in Gaza’s tiny and teeming enclave of 1.8 million people.
SOURCE: Asma’ Jawabreh and Mohammad Atallah
Special for USA TODAY