Gaza One Year On

July 2015

A year after Israeli attacks destroyed much of Gaza and killed over 2,200 Palestinians, daily life continues to be a painful challenge for many survivors still reeling from the trauma and loss. Memories of the attacks are recalled as if they occurred yesterday. With the lack of reconstruction, their surroundings seem similarly stuck in time. Meet six of the tens of thousands of Palestinians struggling to rebuild their lives after losing their homes, jobs, or worst of all: their loved ones.

Farah: Scarred by Gaza’s War Op-Eds & Analysis

Farah: Scarred by Gaza’s War

Farah is a young girl from Beit Lahia, a city located in the Gaza Strip, close to the Israeli border and in the midst of much of the turmoil that occurs in the area. Farah's mother, grandfather, aunt and three uncles were all killed in the same attack that injured Farah, causing her severe third-degree burns on parts of her body…

Yassir Mahmoud El Haj Testimonies

Yassir Mahmoud El Haj

Yassir Mahmoud El Haj's house was struck by Israeli warplanes without warning during Israel’s 2014 attacks. He lost eight family members.

Saleh Issa Swedan Testimonies

Saleh Issa Swedan

Saleh Issa Swedan is a 22-year-old supermarket owner. He has a one-year-old child who was born during the Israeli attacks on Gaza last summer.

Sabah Abu Jayyab Testimonies

Sabah Abu Jayyab

Sabah Abu Jayyab, is a pharmacist and mother of eight children, one of whom was killed in the latest round of Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Khalil Refa’at Abu Radiffa Testimonies

Khalil Refa’at Abu Radiffa

Khalil, his wife Hawwa, and their one-year-old live in a partially destroyed house as they remain unable to rebuild.

Jehan Abu Dagga Testimonies

Jehan Abu Dagga

Jehan Abu Dagga is a lawyer with five children. Their home was seriously damaged by Israeli bombs last summer and they are still waiting to rebuild.

Aysha Saeed Owda El Kurd Testimonies

Aysha Saeed Owda El Kurd

Aysha Saeed Owda El Kurd, a mother of five from Rafah, works as a nurse. Her son was killed during Israel's attacks on Gaza last summer.

Yassir Mahmoud El Haj

Yassir Mahmoud El Haj, 25, is from Khan Younis Refugee Camp in Gaza. He lived with his family, except for one sister who lives in Rafah with her husband, when their house was struck by Israeli warplanes without warning during the first week of Israel’s 2014 attacks. The only two members of his immediate family left alive were Yassir himself and his sister who no longer lived at home.

Yassir’s parents, Mahmoud Lutfi El Haj and Basma Abd El Qader El Haj, and his six brothers and sisters — Najla, 28; Asmaa, 22; Omar, 20; Tareq, 18; Sa’ad, 16; Fatma, 14 — were all killed.

On the 10th of July, 2014, during the third day of attacks at 1:30 AM, our house was targeted with three Israeli missiles, one small missile and two F16 missiles, without any warning.

The day before they hit the house, my family was visiting my uncle, who lives 500 meters away and I stayed with my brothers at home. When they came back that night, I wanted to go out to check on my friends to make sure they were okay. My family told me not to be long and to be careful. I was out for one hour and then my friends and I decided to go home because the situation was dangerous and the Israeli warplanes were flying heavily in the sky.

After a minute, I realized that it was my house and that it was my family under the rubble.

I was 100 meters away from my house when the two F16 missiles fell in front of my eyes in a matter of seconds. We found out later that there was a small missile that hit the house before I arrived.

I couldn’t see where the two missiles hit exactly; I was confused. The smoke and dust filled the air and people were screaming and shouting. I got a bit closer but I couldn’t see where the bombing was exactly. Then, someone running in the street said “they bombed El Haj’s house.” After a minute, I realized that it was my house and that it was my family under the rubble.

I started to scream, “My family is here! What happened?” Then people came and started searching under the rubble. I saw my uncle holding my mother and her legs were cut and he ran to the hospital. I followed him to see what happened to my mother but the neighbors stopped me and started to tell me that my family is okay. “How are they okay? They were all in the house and the whole house was destroyed!” I said.

I remember when we had our last dinner during Ramadan and gathered on one table and talked about the news and situations as any normal family. I wish I knew the reason why they bombed my house and killed my family.

Then they took me to the hospital and I started to search for my family between all the injured people and I didn’t find any of them there. I lost control of myself and screamed, “Where is family?” The doctor came and gave me a sedative and some of my relatives told me that my family is fine and that I could see them when I felt better. When I woke up, they told me that they were all killed. Then, my brother-in-law took me to my house again and I found that they were still taking out the bodies there and I saw my father’s and brothers’ bodies being removed.

After the war, I lived in my uncle’s house and then in my sister’s house in Rafah. Then I rented a house, and I faced many problems in finding an apartment. I don’t work and I don’t have the ability to rebuild the house, especially since I was living inside a refugee camp where the houses are very close to each other and full of people. Thirty people were injured that day and seven houses are unsuitable for habitation in addition to the many partly damaged houses around my house.

I have no one now. I lost my family in this life so I don’t expect any good days in future  — I’m only waiting for time to pass.

The hardest moment in the war for me was when I came back from my friend’s house and I didn’t find my home. I just couldn’t understand that I just left all my family inside for only one hour and then found it destroyed. I regret that I went out; I wish I was there with them.

I got engaged recently and I’m getting married soon. My only sister has helped me try to move on. 

I want the world to know that Israel targets civilians’ houses directly. The children and the families who were killed during the war are the evidence of Israel’s crimes toward civilians in Gaza, so I ask the whole world not to support Israel.

All my sisters and brothers were smart and had good grades in school and they were still so young. None of them were involved in any political or resistance parties. Fatma, my sister, and Sa’ad, my brother got 98% averages at school. My eldest sister, Najla, was first in her class in college and and she worked as a teaching assistant at her university.

I remember when we had our last dinner during Ramadan and gathered on one table and talked about the news and situations as any normal family. I wish I knew the reason why they bombed my house and killed my family. I still want to know why.

Saleh Issa Swedan

Saleh Issa Swedan is a 22-year-old supermarket owner. He has one baby girl, Remas, who was born during the Israeli attacks on Gaza this past summer. His brothers — Omar, Mohammed, Mahmoud, and Helal — were living in the same five-story family building at the time.

We’re not able to rebuild. We’re hardly able to pay the rent. 

After what happened, we had to rent a house and my brothers and I borrowed some money and used some of the donations we received to rent space for a new supermarket, so that we could continue to support the 20 people in our family. But it’s different now. I used to know the people in my neighborhood and have regular customers.

We lived in our house for 20 years. We’re not able to rebuild. We’re hardly able to pay the rent. It is challenging to raise enough money to rent a house and supermarket in order to make a living and to continue with our lives.

Sabah Abu Jayyab

Sabah Abu Jayyab, a pharmacist who works with the UN,  is the mother of eight children, four of them disabled, one of whom was killed in the latest round of Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Sabah had been living for one year in her house with her family before the two floors of her home were reduced to one by Israeli bombs.

Her eight children are: Ahmed, 23 years old; Hanan, 22; Amal: killed at 19; Aseel, 17; Shaza, 14, Aya, 13; Mohammed, 11; Malak, 7.

While we were fleeing, Mohammed was carrying Amal because she is unable to move on her own. There was smoke all over the area. We stopped and I asked him to check if Amal is okay and we saw that she lost consciousness. An hour after Ahmed  put her respirator on for her, she woke up.

During the four days after the attack on our house, Amal didn’t eat anything because of the panic. We took her to the hospital every day  for treatment and after four days, on the 17th of July,  she died because of the panic and fear and because of her disability.

<img alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://imeu.org/uploads/files/Sabah_Abu_Jayyab4.jpg" src="http://imeu.org/uploads/files/Sabah_Abu_Jayyab4.jpg" 5px;="" margin-bottom:="" 5px;"="">

After the destruction of our house, we couldn’t fix anything because we needed money to cover it so I had to borrow money to fix necessary things like the windows, to keep out the cold. We were able to fix some other things with help from the UN.

During the war, one of the hardest things was seeing my children’s faces before I left home to work, knowing it could be the last time. It was also very hard to see them panic when they woke up to the sound of bombing.

Khalil Refa’at Abu Radiffa

29-year-old Khalil Refa’at Abu Radiffa is from the Abassan area of Khan Younis. He is married to 23-year-old Hawwa Fayeq Abu Radiffa. They have a one-year-old child named Refa’at.

Khalil studied English in college, built his two-story house in 2012, and got married shortly after. The house was partly destroyed in the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza.

In the first weeks of the war before the ground invasion started, we were afraid that a missile could hit the house. We didn’t know where they were bombing and the sounds were very loud and scary. We evacuated our home when they announced that the Israeli ground invasion would start soon. We took our necessary things with us and went to my aunt’s house first. Her house was hit so we went to some relatives’ house in the center of Khan Younis city.

I don’t have a job right now but I usually work with NGOs on various projects. In the war, during the ceasefire, I worked with Action Against Hunger as an emergency responder to distribute water and food to people in need. Once while we were working in Khuza’a, the ceasefire suddenly broke and the Red Cross had to help us evacuate.

The hardest day for me was when we had to leave our house under the random shelling to go to a safe place with my family. We saw that the whole area was heavily damaged since we live close to the eastern borders.

 

 

<p 40px;"="">I’m not able to rebuild my home because reconstruction efforts haven’t started yet and I don’t have a job. All that I wish for right now is to rebuild my house and to have a good job.

Jehan Abu Dagga

Jehan Abu Dagga is a lawyer. Her home was seriously damaged by Israel’s most recent offensive in Gaza.

Jehan has five children: Weam, 8 years old; Jana, 7; Ghena, 5; Hala, 4; and Adham, 3.

Now I wish I didn’t study law. Maybe if I was a nurse, it would be better so I could help in these situations.

In the first ceasefire after that terrifying night, which was only for three hours, I asked my husband to go to our house to bring our official papers, IDs, and passports. When he returned, he told me that our home was bombed but it wasn’t completely destroyed.

I sold my jewelry to build the house we wanted and now we don’t have enough to rebuild it. My husband is a farmer and we don’t have that kind of money.

I studied law and I worked as a lawyer but I stopped to stay with my children. Now I wish I didn’t study law. Maybe if I was a nurse, it would be better so I could help in these situations.

The most challenging moment of my life was when I had to choose a safe room in the house to put my children in for the many days while we were stuck inside during the attacks.

<img alt="" data-cke-saved-src="http://imeu.org/uploads/files/Jehan_Abu_Dagga-family2.jpg" src="http://imeu.org/uploads/files/Jehan_Abu_Dagga-family2.jpg" 100%;="" margin-top:="" 5px;="" margin-bottom:="" 5px;"="">

The day I wait for the most, the day that I will be happy, is the day I see my children graduating from university. And I will make sure to provide them a good education — if we live.

Aysha Saeed Owda El Kurd

Aysha Saeed Owda El Kurd, a mother of five from Rafah, works as a nurse. Her husband was a prisoner in Israeli prisons for 14 years. In 1988, shortly after Israel freed him, he was killed.

I play the role of mother and father in my family. I have a lot of responsibility because all but one of my sons can’t find work. After my husband was killed, I lived with my five children in a rented house until we were able to buy a new house.

I was in prison for five years. I was pregnant with my youngest son during the period of imprisonment and I gave birth while there. When I was released in 1988, I only had a high school certificate. I went to the UN to find any job I could for sustenance. I was hired as a worker in the health center and I continued my studies after work at night. I managed to finish and I took a test to help in the health center and then got a promotion and became a nurse. I love my job, especially helping women give birth.

I bought a house for my son after he got married and it was destroyed in the 2008 war on Gaza. We had to start from zero again. We bought an old house in 2013 and repaired it. Three of my sons lived in it because it was hard to rebuild our home again because of the blockade and the shortage of the building materials.

I managed to pay for my sons’ education, thank God. My eldest son Ibrahim is an engineer who studied abroad, the second one Saeed is studying IT, my third is studying accounting, the fourth is studying business administration in his last year of college, and my fifth son Yasser, before I lost him, was studying business administration and in his last semester.

I kissed him and said goodbye. It was extremely hard for me. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t save him with medical treatment as I did for so many other people.

When the war started in 2014, my son Ibrahim was supposed to come to Gaza and tried twice but the closure of the borders prevented him from coming and he wasn’t here when his brother was killed. My other three sons came to my house with their families in Al-Shaboura neighborhood because it was safer than the eastern areas where their house is beside the borders. During the ceasefire, my son Yasser went to check on his house like everyone else, to see what happened in the area and suddenly the ceasefire was broken and the Israeli army started to bomb randomly. The house was bombed with two missiles and Yasser was killed with two other people.

When I heard my son was injured, I remember that I walked the street at night under the continuous bombing to search for him. I tried calling him on his phone. I just couldn’t believe that he was killed. I asked my colleagues in Abu Yosef Al Najjar Hospital to ask about him and they told me that they didn’t know anything because the hospital was bombed. I felt they were also afraid to tell me the truth. 

Two weeks after my son was killed, I went out to help, even though I felt I could collapse. I felt it was my duty to serve all the people who were injured.

Then I called the Kuwaiti Maternity Hospital and they told me they received injured and dead bodies and my son was among them. When we arrived, they told me the full truth, which I already knew in my heart — that he was killed. I asked to see him and went into the mortuary in the hospital and I saw him for the last time. I kissed him and said goodbye. It was extremely hard for me. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t save him with medical treatment as I did for so many other people.

During the war, a lot of people came to the health center and I worked a lot because the people needed us. Two weeks after my son was killed, I went out to help, even though I felt I could collapse. I felt it was my duty to serve all the people who were injured. I went to many people’s houses to treat them and I helped many women give birth at home because it was too dangerous for them to go out.

We’re currently 22 people living in the same house and we don’t have the ability to rebuild my sons’ house again because our income is not enough and because of the blockade.