Displaced and Desperate in Gaza

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Displaced and Desperate in Gaza
By: Safa Joudeh, al-Jazeera
16 January 2009
 

During the course of the Israeli air, ground and sea assaults on Gaza there has been a considerable shift in the nature of the offensive.

The aerial and ground attacks have risen in volume and ferocity and have shifted focus from civil security offices, public service buildings and mosques, to random bombardment of entire neighbourhoods, empty fields within the periphery of these neighbourhoods and vacated or partially vacated buildings.

Now, Israeli forces have taken to directly targeting and destroying residential buildings and homes, civilian cars transporting entire families and schools that provide shelter for the thousands of displaced families in the Gaza Strip.

"Tomorrow never comes"

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools turned shelters have provided cover from the rain and cold for many displaced Gazans but they have failed to provide protection from Israeli missiles.

Although 45 people were killed when a UN school in the northern city of Jabaliya—where 350 Gazans were taking shelter—was hit, those that survived have had little option other than to remain living in the building.

As in all of the 34 UN schools housing refugees in Gaza, those in Jabaliya sleep on the floor with little in the way of basic necessities.

Jalal is a 22-year-old engineering student whose home in the Zeitoun area of Gaza City was only a few metres away from the home of the Samouni family. When the Samouni family home was bombed, leaving 30 people dead, on the second day of the ground offensive, Jalal, his parents, brother and four sisters fled and took refuge in a UNRWA school.

"The first night of the ground incursion we all slept in the kitchen," Jalal said.

"The second day phosphorus bombs fell on our backyard and the barn, setting the hay and two animals on fire. Another came close to hitting my sister`s head as she was praying.

"They`re like balls of fire rolling on the ground."

Jalal says that in the shelter, "four families are placed in each classroom; that means between 30 and 40 people".

"It is cold at night and we went without food for 45 hours the first couple of days.

"Each day we tell each other that this day will be the last, that tomorrow we will go home and all this will end, but tomorrow never comes," he says.

`Nakba` memories evoked

Jalal`s story echoes the accounts I have heard many times before from my grandfather and others who lived through the Palestinian `nakba` or catastrophe in 1948.

"We fled the bombing of British warplanes, we locked our house and hid in the hills for days, each day thinking that tomorrow we would return, but tomorrow never came," my grandfather tells me.

"It has been 60 years and now it is happening again. This time we can`t walk south to escape the bombing, like we walked from Asdood to Gaza. This time they want us to jump into the sea.

"But we won`t, we`ll die standing with our heads held high this time. We`ve learned from the past that it`s better to die defending than to run and live.

Themes
• Access to natural resources
• Access to natural resources
• Access to natural resources
• Accompanying social processes
• Accompanying social processes
• Adverse possession
• Advocacy
• Advocacy
• Advocacy
• Architecture
• Architecture
• Armed / ethnic conflict
• Armed / ethnic conflict
• Basic services
• Basic services
• Basic services
• Children
• Children
• Commodification
• Commodification
• Cultural Heritage
• Cultural Heritage
• Demographic manipulation
• Destruction of habitat
• Destruction of habitat
• Destruction of habitat
• Disability
• Disability
• Disaster mitigation
• Disaster mitigation
• Discrimination
• Discrimination
• Discrimination
• Displaced
• Displaced
• Displaced
• Displacement
• Displacement
• Displacement
• Dispossession
• Dispossession
• Dispossession
• Education
• Education
• Elderly
• Elderly
• Energy
• Energy
• Epidemics, diseases
• Epidemics, diseases
• ESC rights
• ESC rights
• ESC rights
• Extraterritorial obligations
• Extraterritorial obligations
• Fact finding mission/field research
• Farmers/Peasants
• Financialization
• Financialization
• Financialization
• Food (rights, sovereignty, crisis)
• Food (rights, sovereignty, crisis)
• Forced evictions
• Forced evictions
• Forced evictions
• Gentrification
• Gentrification
• Health
• Health
• Historic heritage sites
• Historic heritage sites
• Homeless
• Homeless
• Homeless
• Housing crisis
• Housing rights
• Housing rights
• Housing rights
• Human rights
• Human rights
• Human rights
• Immigrants
• Immigrants
• Indigenous peoples
• Indigenous peoples
• Informal settlements
• Internal migrants
• Internal migrants
• Internal migrants
• Land rights
• Landless
• Legal frameworks
• Legal frameworks
• Legal frameworks
• Livelihoods
• Local Governance
• Local Governance
• Local Governance
• Low income
• Norms and standards
• Norms and standards
• Norms and standards
• Property rights
• Public policies
• Public policies
• Public policies
• Public programs and budgets
• Public programs and budgets
• Public programs and budgets
• Refugees
• Refugees
• Religious
• Religious
• Reparations / restitution of rights
• Research
• Research
• Right to the city
• Right to the city
• Security of tenure
• Security of tenure
• Security of tenure
• Stateless
• Stateless
• Subsidies
• Subsidies
• Temporary shelter
• Temporary shelter
• Tenants
• Tenants
• UN system
• UN system
• UN system
• Unemployed
• Unemployed
• Urban planning
• Urban planning
• Water&sanitation
• Water&sanitation
• Women
• Women
• Youth
• Youth

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