Eid in Gaza lost to war as bombs shatter fragile livelihoods

Traders see their shops and futures ruined by Israeli air strikes

Gaza city would normally be bustling on the first day of Eid Al Fitr, but with the constant bombardment of Israeli air strikes the streets are empty.

Shaban Al Helwo was prepared for the holiday, a time when people buy clothes, gifts and sweets. His women’s clothes shop on Omar Al Molhtar Street in Al Remal neighbourhood was fully stocked.

But instead of doing a roaring trade, he spent the last day of Ramadan sifting through ruined goods trying to calculate his losses.

In the shadow of the 17-story Al Sharouk Tower that was levelled in an Israeli strike earlier this week, his shop – like many on the usually busy street – is destroyed.

“I bought a new collection for Eid, but I couldn’t sell it because of the current escalation,” Shaban, 30, told The National.

“Now there is no any joy for Eid; the destruction is everywhere. We are going years back, unfortunately”.

So far, the fighting between Israel and Gaza’s armed groups has killed 87 Palestinians – including 17 children and five women – and wounded more than 530 others. At the same time, seven people have been killed in Israel – including one soldier.

The authorities in Gaza said that Israeli warplanes, tanks and ships hit about 500 locations in the enclave, 186 of them on Wednesday night.

A combination picture shows a tower building in Gaza City on May 12, 2021 (L and C) and after it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, May 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Suhaib Salem TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A combination picture shows a tower building in Gaza as it’s being destroyed in Israeli strikes. Reuters

“This attack targeted our economy and our dignity. They don’t attack only the buildings, they attacked our souls,” Nael Al Rayyas, another Gaza trader, told The National.

“Yesterday was like a nightmare for me and other traders. Instead of having good results for this season unfortunately all we got were negative results.”

Mr Al Rayyas, who owns a large ice-cream shop and a number of clothes stores, has a business just 15 meters from the rubble of Al Sharouk tower. He estimates that among the dust and glass are his losses of about $100,000.

“I couldn’t do anything when I heard the tower will be destroyed, but as long as we still alive we can rebuild everything again,” he said.

The Israeli military issued a short warning to the residents of Al Sharouk Tower to leave before the strike came in. Israel said the building contained offices used by Hamas officials.

But it is not the only building that was hit in the area. Gaza officials say at least 500 residential units have been damaged or destroyed. The traders say that every morning another building in the market area is hit.

Abed Allah Al Dahdouh, 27, opened his accessories shop just one week ago to benefit from the Eid season rush. His shop, Queen, is also meters from the destroyed building.

“We lost the season, the customers, the area is destroyed now,” Abed Allah told The National.

“When I received the news about targeting the building, I was confused. I feel that I am powerless ... to save my shop,” he said.

He estimated his losses at about $1,800.

Abed Allah Al Dahdouh, 27, opened his accessories shop “Queen” just a week ago ahead of Eid. Nagham Mohanna for The National
Abed Allah Al Dahdouh, 27, opened his accessories shop “Queen” just a week ago ahead of Eid. Nagham Mohanna for The National

Just three days into the latest fighting and already the signs of destruction are everywhere in the empty streets of Gaza city, one of the most densely populated cities on the planet.

Even as the warplanes circle overhead, children in Gaza wear the new Eid outfits they bought as families try to ease the stress and worry of the week.

Sawsan Al Statarri, 11, wearing a new pink jacket and holding a small bag, says: “To make it feel like Eid, I asked my mother to let me wear my new clothes.”

Even dressed up and trying to capture some of the holiday spirit, she says she does not feel secure and is afraid of the bombing.

“I took my girls out of the house, to let them feel that we can continue our life despite all the destruction that is around us,” Sawsan’s father, Khaleel Al Satarri, 31, told The National.

“We are insisting on our rights to live a peaceful life, our children deserve to feel like other children around the world.”

Updated: May 13, 2021 09:25 PM


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