'No longer our home': Gazans return to destroyed houses during truce

Residents say they will need months to rebuild as temporary truce set to expire on Wednesday

Palestinians cook by their destroyed homes in Gaza during the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. AP
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Residents in Gaza said they will need months to rebuild their lives as they used the sixth day of a temporary truce to clear rubble from homes damaged by Israeli air strikes during seven weeks of war.

Most buildings in the Gaza Strip have been damaged by Israeli bombardment since October 7, with entire residential areas levelled.

“There is no life in Gaza, it will take a long time for us to feel normal,” Heba Nasser, a 33-year-old mother of three, told The National, as she tried to clear debris from around her house.

“We took the back way to return to our home in the north to avoid any danger. We found all the windows and doors are broken, there is glass everywhere in the house, it is no longer our home,” Ms Nasser said.

She said Gazans need “months to get back on their feet”.

For the last four days Ms Nasser has walked for several hours with her family to their home to try to clear the rubble, remove broken glass, and clean the walls.

“We are trying to make it a home again but this will take time and a lot of supplies that we don't have,” she said.

“We cannot buy windows or glass from anywhere because there is a limited supply inside Gaza so we are looking at alternatives,” Ms Nasser said.

More than 234,000 homes have been damaged and 46,000 destroyed across Gaza, according to estimates from the United Nations Protection Cluster for the Occupied Territories.

This amounts to around 60 per cent of the housing in the densely populated enclave, which was home to around 2.3 million people, many of them living in cramped conditions with some large families sharing a single room.

The northern half of Gaza has seen the most damage. Although Israeli air strikes have hit across the entire Gaza Strip, its ground offensive has focused on Gaza city and surrounding areas in the north.

A video released by the Palestinian Red Crescent on Wednesday showed scenes of destruction in the streets around the Al Quds Hospital in Gaza city.

The daily air strikes and shelling stopped on Friday, when a four-day truce between Hamas and Israel came into effect. The truce was extended on Monday for two days.

The pause in fighting has provided the people of Gaza with much-needed relief and an opportunity to find loved ones and try to get essential goods.

During the first days of the truce, residents in the southern Gaza Strip scrambled to secure necessities, including food and clothing.

There have been long queues for fuel and many have resorted to using firewood, because of the lack of gas and electricity for cooking.

Despite an increase in aid entering the enclave under the truce deal, the UN has warned that many Gazans still face crucial shortages of food, clean water, and medicines.

More than 15,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in Gaza, say Palestinian authorities, since the war began after Hamas launched an attack on Israel that killed about 1,200 people.

Updated: November 30, 2023, 6:06 AM