Gaping holes in walls, rooms blackened and destroyed by fire from phosphorous shells, doors torn off of hinges, deeply-cracked walls requiring demolition and reconstruction, rocket-made skylights, shot-up blankets covering where walls were…a house standing on trembling legs…Families huddled into one not-quite-fully-protected room, sharing too few mattresses and blankets…
These scenes replay throughout Gaza, each family devastated by their personal loss, each family wondering how to survive and where to find the money to do so.
Fatema told me of her sister, Sabrine Shamali, whose home looks fine from the outside [depending on one’s notion of ‘fine’. Outside of Gaza anyone would immediately question the absence of a front wall and the pathetic attempt to cover it with a hole-riddled blanket. But in Gaza, with such whole-scale damage, yes this house could pass for ‘fine’.], but which inside was falling apart.
“Their walls are ready to fall down, the roof leaks in every room, they don’t have enough blankets,” she’d told me. “Everything in their house was destroyed.”
I found the time to go to Schaff, northeast of Gaza city, to visit the house.
She hadn’t been exaggerating.With the exception of one bedroom, the rest of the home which had housed 9 people was wrecked. We did the tour, like so many tours I’ve done.
“Here was the phosphorous shell; it burned this room. A rocket came through the roof here. There were 3 other tank shells. We had moved the tv and computer in here, we thought it was a safer room…This was the children’s room….”
I knew the tour already and knew what else would come.
“Everything was destroyed. Our mattresses, blankets, clothes, furniture…Everything. The walls are all cracked. The roof leaks in every room. We don’t have money to re-build. We don’t have the cement to re-build.”
And the part that always resonates: “We spent 25 years saving for this house. We’d only lived here for a few years, and we had plans to renovate.” By their estimates it will cost $15,000 to repair the house, if building materials are ever allowed into Gaza.
*shell hole in the children’s bedroom. The shell bored through two walls in the neighbouring house before exploding into the Shamali house.
*Ramadan Shamali, pointing out the route of the shell.
*view of the Shamali house –children’s bedroom –from the neighbouring house where the shell first entered.
*view from the top of neighbouring house. The shell first struck this top level, crashing throuh the stairwell wall, continued down to the outer wall of the house and on to the Shamali home.
*neighbouring family of 13 people: The father, Munzer, formerly traded between Palestine and Egypt but is now jobless and out of an income. Mohammed, the eldest son (20), now sells scarves and trinkets on the street. Ahmed(13) hasn’t been to school since the 6th grade, instead selling phone cards on the street to add to his family’s income.
* a pile of mattresses and thin blankets. The mattresses were loaned by a friend and need to be returned. The family received a few thin blankets from aid groups but not sufficient in quality or numbers for the family.
*Ramadan Shimali, in the room which leaks the least, where the entire family now sleeps, piling mattresses on the cramped floor.
*some of the many cracks splitting walls throughout the house.
*destroyed appliances mix with rocket remnants.
*One of several rooftop holes.
*Jebal Sourani: Sourani hilltop, near the house, where Israeli tanks amassed during Israel’s latest invasion of and atacks on Gaza.