After the withdrawal of Israeli tanks and soldiers, the people of Gaza have returned to find what’s left of their homes. According to Palestinian figures, some 14 percent of Gaza’s buildings and homes were destroyed or damaged during Israel’s three-week assault.
One man said: “We are looking for a place to live. This used to be our home. We have no one helping us; not the UN, not the government. Nobody is standing by us, and we are begging the UN, the Red Cross, anybody to give us a tent. But there is no-one.” Many people had no choice but to flee when the fighting began, a conflict the UN says claimed the lives of some 1300 Palestinians, half of them civilians. One woman said: “After 20 days we came back and found our house in ruins. We could not find matresses, flour, our sheep. Nothing. The whole house in ruins. Where should we go now? We ask them to build us a house.” The cost of rebuilding is going to run into the hundreds of millions of euros, and Saudi Arabia and European countries have promised to help. However, the process is likely to be complicated, with Israel imposing conditions: it says it will only allow reconstruction managed by international organisations in co-operation with the UN, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, but not Hamas. Meanwhile, smuggling into Gaza from Egypt appears to be underway again. Israel said it destroyed most of the hundreds of tunnels it says were used to ship weapons into Gaza. But some Palestinians have been seen repairing some tunnels, and filling up from a fuel tanker with petrol said to have been brought in from Egypt.