Sunday, February 1, 2009

Gaza Counts the Cost - and Assigns Blame

The Independent (UK), February 1, 2009 - Two weeks after an uneasy ceasefire ended Israel's 22-day offensive, Gaza is still struggling to come to terms with the cost of more than 1,300 Palestinian lives, more than 5,000 injuries and the total or partial destruction of some 20,000 homes. Last night Chris Gunness, chief spokesman for the UN Relief and Works agency, which has budgeted more than $300m (£205m) for an emergency food, health and repair package, said there was an "overwhelming" need for "industrial-scale building materials to be brought into Gaza to begin the task of rehabilitation, and that is before reconstruction in earnest even begins".

The loss and devastation faced by Gazan civilians is as apparent in this rural village, a mere 1.5 kilometres from the Israeli border, as anywhere. Juhr al Dik is agricultural land, notably green by Gaza standards, but a month ago Israeli forces arrived here early in their ground offensive, establishing bases in some of the homes. Tank tracks are still visible where they swept west towards the sea, cutting the Gaza Strip in half.

By the time the forces withdrew two weeks ago, and the residents returned from the temporary shelter in the nearby Bureij refugee camp, the forces had demolished 165 houses, displacing nearly half the 2,500 population, and razed olive groves, citrus orchards and sheep pastures, according to the local mayor, Salim Mohammed. Asked yesterday how he will set about reconstructing the shattered community here, Mr Mohammed said simply: "I have no idea."....

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