Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)
Examining the charred remains of its Gaza furniture factory, destroyed by Israeli bombs last week, its owner Eyad Sawafiri faces a dilemma familiar to many business owners in the Palestinian enclave.
“After what happened, I’m afraid to rebuild,” he said. “If I do, how do I know that everything will not be destroyed in the next war?” “
Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire in response to Hamas rockets killed more than 240 people in the Gaza Strip, but also set back any dreams of economic recovery in the poverty-stricken coastal territory.
In the final hours of the latest 11-day military escalation, Israeli artillery fire fell on an industrial area outside Gaza City on Thursday.
Factories in Gaza have a long history of producing furniture, plastic pipes for water and sewage systems, soft drinks and sweet tea-flavored cookies.
Some factories remained intact, others were damaged, some completely destroyed – among them Sawafiri’s furniture workshop where he and his brother Nehad employed 70 people.
“We thought that setting up our factory in this international industrial zone, next to the warehouses of the United Nations refugee agency, would protect us,” said Sawafiri, 45.
# photo1 ″ We were the biggest furniture factory in Gaza, but everything melted away – the machines, the metal structure that supports the factory. “
Watching embers still burning in the rubble, he said his brother still couldn’t bring himself to come and see how their things had been reduced to ashes.
– Burnt plastic –
Friday’s ceasefire ended the fourth major military clash between Israel and Gaza since 2008.
# photo2 She killed 248 people in Gaza, including 66 children, according to the local health ministry.
The death toll in Israel has reached 12, including an Arab-Israeli child and teenager, an Israeli soldier, an Indian and two Thai nationals, doctors said.
On the Gaza side, the conflict has caused major economic damage, destroying entire office buildings, cratering roads and razing factories.
The devastation is another obstacle for the enclave of two million people, where more than half of the working-age population is unemployed.
Its inhabitants rarely received electricity for more than 12 hours a day, never before the latest round of air raids raged even more on the grid.
Only 3% of drinking water meets international safety standards.
The densely populated Mediterranean enclave has been under Israeli blockade since 2007.
It does not control its maritime borders, and its Hamas-led government needs permission from the Jewish state to export its products or bring in supplies.
Because Hamas turned metal components into rockets, Israel insisted that international donors only fund projects using plastic pipes.
But in the last conflict, even a family-owned Gaza factory that made plastic pipes was hit on the last day of the fighting.
“When Israel blocked some metal pipes from entering Gaza, we decided to start producing plastic pipes,” said its owner Naeem al-Siksik, standing next to the burnt pipes.
“But right now, around 150 tonnes of plastic have been burnt. “
– ‘Endless cycle’ –
Philippe Lazzarini, head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said reconstruction in Gaza should go hand in hand with efforts to address the “root causes” of the conflict.
Only that could put an end to an endless cycle of destruction and reconstruction, he said.
US President Joe Biden said Thursday that his country was determined to help provide humanitarian aid and support the reconstruction of Gaza “in a way that does not allow Hamas to simply replenish its military arsenal.”
As part of a 2018 truce negotiated by the UN and Egyptian officials, a development roadmap was established for the strip’s crumbling infrastructure.
The gas-rich Gulf of Qatar emirate has since provided fuel for electricity, wages and aid to needy families across the strip.
But the comprehensive plan did not include Western donors who are reluctant to work with Hamas, which the United States and the European Union have called a “terrorist” organization, and progress has been slow.
Gaza-based analyst Omar Shaaban argued that Western countries must realize that they cannot work without Hamas.
“Does the international community really want to end this cycle of destruction or not? ” He asked.
“Gaza is under Hamas control, so how can you rebuild without them? Hamas is everywhere – it manages municipalities, water and electricity.
“The only option is to include them. “
© 2021 AFP