Friday, January 23, 2009

Gaza in Ruins: Who Has Won Here?

Spiegel Online International (reporting from Beit Lahiya), January 23, 2009 - ....Through the hole in the wall of his house, Sadala sees a landscape in gray and brown. This is where a neighbourhood had stood, his neighbourhood. Now there is a snake of sand around the bomb crater. It is impossible to tell where the streets once stood. Family houses have turned into piles of debris. People have built refuges using cloth and rubble. They stand alongside dead donkeys and sheep, whose stomachs swell up. No one here has time to remove rotting corpses.

The people from Beit Lahia are starting from zero again: children load wood from broken trees onto their back. Their mothers bend over fires and bake bread. Young women carry water in petrol canisters. Only the men stand around looking numb, smoking, staring blankly. Many people here, like Sandala, had placed their hopes in Hamas -- now they are gazing into nothing, ideologically as well as materially.

Everything Is Lost Now

And it is not just buildings that lie in rubble in the Gaza strip, it is the livelihoods of many thousands of people. In Arabic societies a home is usually everything a family possesses. Often several brothers build a house for the entire family. Living at close quarters has its advantages: when the costs of building the house are paid off, there is more money left over to feed the dozens of family members.

Everything is lost now.

"When Hamas came to power, they came to our aid with packages of groceries," says Abu Abed. The 60-year-old's sons, all of whom are trained hospital nurses, have been without work for years. That is true of many in the Gaza Strip. Now Abu Abed stands before the rumble of the house where he lived with four generations of his family. All that remains are the ground floor pillars. The Israeli navy had its eye on the building from the very beginning of the war. After all, its clear view of Gaza City and the sea would have provided a good base for Hamas.

"I've changed my mind about Hamas," Abu Abed says. "I can't support any party that wages a war that destroys our lives." He is particularly pained by the fact that Hamas is still selling the cease-fire as a victory.

"Who has won here?" he asks and points to the debris that was once his home....

Please see also Photo Gallery: Gaza's Beit Lahiya in Ruins.

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