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Time stands still in Gaza

It is over a year since Israel ended its brutal attack on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, yet it appears that time stands still. The scars left by 22 days of land, naval and aerial bombardment and invasion remain fresh.

More than 15,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged and over 100,000 Palestinians were rendered homeless. The thousands of homes and other buildings destroyed in the Israeli onslaught have not been rebuilt. In Gaza, even the use of cement has become a political issue, thus freezing all plans for reconstruction. Israel still claims that allowing construction materials such as cement, wood and steel into Gaza is risky, because they all have a possible "dual use". In other words, Hamas might construct rocket launching pads instead of rebuilding homes, factories, mosques and schools. Since February 2009, barely four truckloads of construction material have been allowed in per month. However, Gaza's shortages began long before the war, when Israel and Egypt imposed a siege after Hamas won the democratic elections in 2006.

The siege on Gaza has affected more than the flow of goods. NGOs are prevented from attending human rights conferences abroad because the borders are closed; patients are dying because they cannot travel abroad for urgent medical treatment; and exceptional students are losing scholarships abroad because they are not allowed to leave Gaza. This is the situation that Ayman Talal finds himself in; he has been awarded an academic scholarship to study a Masters degree in Peace, Conflict and Development Studies at St Jaume I University in Spain, but the 23 year old is prevented from leaving Gaza by the blockade.

Nevertheless life continues in Gaza. Pens and paper are not allowed due to the siege. So children use pencils in their notebooks and then get the erasers out, after which the same notebooks are used by their younger siblings. There is no space in the classrooms for all the children, so schools operate on two or three shifts a day to ensure all receive an education. 

MEMO has obtained exclusive pictures of Palestinians in Gaza standing next to their demolished homes and waiting for them to be rebuilt. The Public Works Ministry in Gaza has laid the foundations for the first house to be built after the war and it is appealing to other countries around the world to intervene and lift the siege on the beleaguered territory so that reconstruction can begin in earnest.


MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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