On this day last year, Israel and Hamas agreed to end the 51 days of fighting.
2,251 Palestinians in Gaza were killed, including 551 children, and 11,231 were injured. During the fighting, more than 500,000 Palestinians were displaced (28% of the population in the Gaza Strip).
More than 18,000 homes were destroyed, and an estimated 80,000 homes and properties need to be rehabilitated.
63 water facilities were damaged and 23 were completely destroyed.
Gaza’s education sector was already overstretched prior to the hostilities – with a shortage of 200 schools in 2014, and almost 80 per cent of school classes running double shifts. The destruction of, and damage to 209 schools as a result of the conflict exacerbated these deficits. Three universities are reported to have been directly hit by Israeli strikes, while eight sustained collateral damage. 274 kindergartens were damaged and 11 were destroyed. Overall, the quality of education in Gaza is reported to have worsened, because classes are now larger, the time spent at school shorter and psychological and economic challenges are considerable, according to UNFPA. (para. 585, UN Independent Commission of Inquiry).
The World Bank has reported that the economy in Gaza is on the verge of collapse. Youth unemployment exceeds 60%, the highest in the world. 39% of the population lives below the poverty line.
More than 1,500 children were orphaned during the 51 days of Israel’s campaign against the Palestinians in Gaza. Almost 800 women were widowed. The psychological trauma inflicted on the youth especially cannot the underestimated.
“Children are afraid to die; they ask all the time if there will be another war.” Dr. Mona El Farra, a Palestinian doctor in Gaza.
The U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry concluded that the impact of the 2014 war cannot be assessed separately from Israel’s long-term blockade, and made a number of recommendations which I’m going to share in another post.
An American, Denny Cormier, living in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge shared his observation that night when the fighting ended.
This is a night for joy and happiness.
Nader and I took to the streets of Al Jundi, and it was a night when thousands and thousands came to celebrate. The mood was infectious – for a few hours, the war was left behind, and the future looked brighter.
There were joyful prayers from every mosque in the city… the prayers filled Gaza and were the first reactions to the cease fire… and then came celebratory firing of rifles in the area – cries of Allahu Akbar.
Children filled the street – released from a too long confinement.
Parents and others followed close behind.
Banners were hung at Al Meena. Firecrackers were all around us.
Cars and trucks passed by in parade almost immediately – filled with young men who waved banners, shouted slogans announcing the end of war – holding hands up in the sign of peace.
I was immediately overwhelmed…. tonight was a night for joy but I also wept from the pure joy of seeing my Palestinian friends at this special moment in this journey to Gaza.
I will remember this night forever.
The people of Gaza have suffered horribly during these last 50 days. So many have died and been seriously injured. We have witnessed the photographs of so many martyred and injured children. Many villages have been destroyed altogether…. thousands and thousands of homes and mosques and buildings now lie in rubble. Many residential towers lie in ruin…. with another joining them in Gaza City last night.
Some might wonder how Gaza could celebrate in the face of such great loss and destruction…
But there is much that we have yet to learn about this people of the resistance.
Gaza celebrated its survival, its resistance, its relief, its innate love of life tonight – its strong belief in a merciful and loving Allah – and took a few hours to celebrate the end to this war, and the hope of a new beginning.
And I swear to you – I truly believe that even those who lost their lives and are now in Jannah also joined this celebration.
But this is just a beginning, my dear friends…. the celebration of the evening is fading – and now the real works begins.
The final ceasefire agreement is still filled with question marks and unresolved issues – years of reconstruction lie ahead – the dead are still being buried – the injured may have months of recovery and rehabilitation before them – the infrastructure has been destroyed – raw sewage still pours into the sea. More then 50% of the working population is unemployed (and that number will rise in the coming days)…. many people have become homeless (hundreds of thousands of them)…. and many of them have no place to go – no home to return to….. thousands and thousands are without food and water (or are food insecure)….
As one astute observer in Gaza wrote tonight – We have won the war but there is still no electricity and water tonight… the city is mostly dark, my dear friends.
There is reason for celebration in Gaza tonight because nearly 50 days and nights of bombing were a horrific experience for many who thought that they might die at any moment… that their children would meet the same fate.
Children will look to the sky for many weeks to come and run to their mother or friends hoping to find protection.
The drones are still in the sky over Gaza tonight.
Gaza is still an open air prison.
More than at any other time – the good people of Gaza need our support.
They need protests in the street until their freedoms are won.
They need us to learn more about their heritage and their future.
They will need us to dig deep in the coming days.
They will need us to continue the work of boycotting Israeli goods and investments in Israeli corporations (and those corporations that have supported years of apartheid in the West Bank and years of siege and blockade in Gaza).
There is still much to be done.
The bombs and destruction have ended for the moment – but please remember that little has changed yet – and it will not change at all without our support.
Israel is still the Occupier. The blockade and siege remain in place except for a piece of paper and promises.
One of the world’s largest armies is ready to attack again at any moment.
Thanks to Allah, I am alive – thanks to Allah, the nights are quieter – thanks to Allah, there is “temporary” peace in this land of beautiful people.
Thanks to Allah for your prayers and support and for your sacrifices, dear friends.
Gaza is still under attack.
And it will be for years to come unless we continue our work.
We must continue this work.
I love you, dear friends.