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Middle East

As Meshaal visits Gaza, reconstruction starts

media House in Tal Al Hawa (Gaza City) which had been struck by an F16 Ruth Michaelson/Transterra Media

As Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal returns to Gaza for the first time since 1967, the Strip is trying to rebuild after the latest Israeli offensive. Meshaal has been living in exile but returns to mark what Hams claims was a victory in ending the offensive afetr eight days. But the damage is huge and civilians have paid a heavy price.

The Hamas government says it will seek over one billion US dollars in aid from Arab nations and football’s governing body, Fifa, has pledged to rebuild the destroyed stadium in Gaza City centre.

But Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth and a vast amount of the damage has been to civilian homes.

Gaza’s Palestinians have long been unable to get insurance against such attacks, and so it is here that the financial, not to mention psychological tolls are likely to hit hardest.

Hamas says it is impossible to say how long reconstruction will take.

Civil servant Amar il-Beneh lives in the Tal Al Hawa district of Gaza City. His house is a mess of broken windows and piles of destroyed furniture, along with a burnt-out car sat outside.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

He says that he wasn’t aware of the attack as it happened, as he only regained consciousness when he woke up and found himself in hospital.

“I was just out of the house and then I came back," he recalls. "Ten minutes later they attacked the house two doors down with an F16. I wondered why, because that house was empty.”

Neither he, nor his wife and two daughters, were too badly hurt in the explosion.

Il-Beneh is waiting to see if he can receive help from an aid agency like UNWRA, as this is his only hope.

Gaza residents cannot get insurance because of the nature and frequency of Israeli attacks.

“There is no money to rebuild: all of my money was in the house, he says. "Everything I have is destroyed.”

While many were out in the streets celebrating the end of the Israeli attack, Il Beneh’s home was a reminder that the victory Hamas claims came at a price.

“I’m happy about the ceasefire because people are safe," he says. "Yes, there are people that have lost their homes or loved ones, but all we can do is ask God to protect them now. There is nothing more we can do about it.”

The damage done by attacks such as these are not just financial. They are also emotional and psychological and these elements are harder to fix.

Amar Shawa is 13 years old and lives next door to the Il-Beneh family and was injured in the same aerial attack. 

“These all came from falling glass," He says pointing to a head wound as well as puncture marks on his ribs. "When someone came to help me and take me to hospital, the second rocket came.”

His father, Asem Shawa, says that he hasn’t even tried to count the cost of the damage to their home as it’s too traumatic. But he also said he has no idea of where the money to rebuild would even come from.

“My father built this house 35 years ago, and so you’re talking about a lot of damage that’s sentimental, not just financial value. So much of our family history vanished in two minutes. That’s all it took. How can I even think of building this again?”

The problems of rebuilding are compounded by problems that predated the Israeli attacks. Gaza has suffered a series of energy crises in 2012 and fuel forms a key part of the reconstruction effort.

Audio report - Gaza clean-up hits civilians hardest 07/12/2012 - by Ruth Michaelson Listen

“The gas cuts out often because of the situation and we just need more and more right now, says petroal station owner Omar Mohammed il-Ghal. "We’re getting our gas from the Egyptian town of Rafah, but there are problems there too, so this a real worry.”

Il-Ghal says that he hopes that the ceasefire will bring progress towards the lifting of the blockade, put in place by Israel in 2006.

But with a long road ahead for reconstruction, it is clear that although Israel stated its targets were never civilians, it is non-combatants who bear the toll of the clean-up.

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