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Amid Destruction, Gazans Choose to Rebuild Their Homes Over Living in Tents

From the heart of immense destruction and unparalleled suffering in Gaza, stories of resilience and will are manifested in the face of harsh conditions. For nine months, Gazans have not lived a day in peace, constantly hearing the sounds of rockets and shells that have erased landmarks of Gaza and rendered the strip a disaster zone, perhaps forever.

Living in Tents

In the aftermath of the enormous destruction witnessed in Gaza as a result of ongoing genocide and military operations, many families were forced to seek refuge in tents as a temporary alternative to their homes, from which they were displaced due to the brutal Israeli occupation. These tents, meant to be a temporary solution, have become hubs of diseases and hardships that exceed all expectations.

Witness to this is citizen Abdul Latif Al-Najjar, a resident of Khan Younis, located in the south of the Gaza Strip, where Israeli soldiers stayed at his house during the military operation and left Hebrew language phrases on the remainder of his walls. Al-Najjar says, “I am 32 years old, with a family of three children – two boys and a girl. Like everyone else in Gaza, I was forced to flee to the Mawasi area when the Israeli army began its military operation in Khan Younis. Our suffering was severe while staying in the tent; my children suffered from diseases. The presence of toilets next to the tent caused a proliferation of mosquitoes and insects, resulting in skin diseases for me and my children.”

Daily Agonies in Tent Life

Due to the challenges faced daily by Palestinian families living in tents in Gaza, from the weakness of tent structures and worn-out fabrics, through harsh weather conditions worsening in winter, and the acute shortage of basic services like water, sanitation, and electricity, life inside the tents has become a daily agony itself. As a result of this unbearable situation, some Gazans have preferred returning to their partially destroyed homes located in areas from which the Israeli army withdrew, attempting to rebuild and remove the massive rubble rather than remaining inside the dramatic refugee camps.

In an attempt to describe the magnitude of the suffering in the displacement camps, Mohammed Nabil Lulu told us, “I lived in this house when the war started, and when the Israeli occupation entered Khan Younis, I fled to the Mawasi area in Rafah, which the Israeli occupation claimed to be a safe humanitarian area. As the ground operation expanded, people began moving there in large numbers, increasing waste and the spread of insects and diseases, making the situation unbearable.” Therefore, after the Israeli army withdrew from Khan Younis, Lulu decided to return to his semi-destroyed home. However, he still faces many life problems, starting with water scarcity, lack of cooking gas, extensive damage, and fire effects in parts of the house constantly soiling their clothes and bodies.

Health Risks in Tents

Among the major challenges faced by tent dwellers in Gaza is the continuous health risk. The random conditions of the tents make them hotbeds for diseases, both respiratory and other infectious diseases. Especially with the shortage of healthcare and medicines, this risk increases, leaving residents vulnerable to dangerous diseases. These health disasters are among the primary reasons Palestinians prefer living amidst rubble instead of tents that provide no protection from summer heat or winter cold.

Hope Amidst Hardships

Despite significant obstacles, Gaza residents express hope for a peaceful day when their homes can become safe havens once again. Amidst these harsh conditions, their strong will and ability to adapt remain symbols of resilience and hope shining in the face of destruction. One of the symbols of hope and resilience are Palestinian women who have faced all forms of suffering and pain but still possess hearts full of faith and hope for an end to war and a return to normal life.

In this context, Palestinian woman Raja Khreis, who miraculously survived from under the rubble after the neighboring house was bombed, expresses gratitude to Allah for sparing her life and keeping part of her house intact for her to return to and live under its dilapidated roof. Khreis says, “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, we returned to our home and removed the rubble from the damaged rooms, and we live here because the situation in the displacement camps is very difficult due to insects, sewage, flies, diseases, and noise, and we cannot bear this situation.”

A Call for Global Solidarity

The stories of Gaza residents remind the world of the importance of humanity and global solidarity in facing natural disasters and destructive conflicts. There remains an urgent need for continuous humanitarian intervention to help these families build a better future for their children and future generations who have been deprived of all their rights and had their dreams shattered. Children’s lives in Gaza have changed from a bright life to one colored by agony, blood, and pain. Scenes of Gaza’s children break the heart – among them the martyrs, the wounded, the sick, the orphaned, and others whom life slapped before they could understand its meaning.

Therefore, we stood perplexed before the questions of the child Lina Al-Taweel, who wondered why Israeli soldiers burned her room. Lina explained that her room contained many of her toys and dolls, and when she returned, she found the room and the entire house burnt. She says, “The hardest thing I have faced since returning home is the lack of water in the area. I have to carry water containers from a distant place and climb five floors to deliver them to what remains of our apartment.”

To reflect the suffering of the Palestinian man in the miserable Gaza Strip, we met with citizen Fouad Al-Taweel, forced to flee more than once due to war waged by Israeli occupation on Gaza. Al-Tawil was displaced to Rafah, where he stayed for about two months, then moved to the Mawasi area in Khan Younis. Al-Taweel says, his eyes filled with sorrow as he looks at his destroyed house and his mind wandering in the uncertain future, “The suffering cannot be described; the conditions are very difficult in the displacement camps, where insects spread greatly, forcing us to return to what remains of our destroyed house. We put up tarps and blankets instead of the collapsed walls, and we live here now. We sit in our house, or what remains of it, which I worked on building for 40 years. Now I am here with my wife, children, and grandchildren, not knowing what to do or how to provide food and drink in these difficult conditions where we do not work and have no source of income.”

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