‘This is not war. This is eradication’

The Washington Post reports: The scale of destruction and loss over nearly a month of war, Gazans and international aid workers say, is far more devastating than that left after the two previous Israel-Hamas battles, in 2009 and 2012.

“I am 70 years old, and I have not witnessed a war anything like this one,” Muhammed al-Astal said as he inspected the remains of his cream-colored house, which had been devastated by Israeli shells. “This is not war. This is eradication.”

As negotiations began in Cairo on Wednesday to secure a broader truce between Israel and Hamas, the rebuilding of Gaza emerged as a key element of a solution to the current conflict. Under discussion is an international donor conference to raise funds and the reconstruction directed by the Western-backed Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas, which lost control of the coastal enclave when Hamas seized power in 2007.

Billions were also spent on reconstructing Gaza after Israel’s 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead offensive against Hamas. Back then also, schools, factories, bridges, mosques and more than 6,000 homes were badly damaged or destroyed, according to the United Nations. But five years later, many of the structures haven’t been fully rebuilt. Now, the current conflict has brought even more wreckage.

Speaking Wednesday in front of the U.N. General Assembly, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “The massive deaths and destruction in Gaza have shocked and shamed the world.”

“We will build again, but this must be the last time to rebuild,” the U.N. chief said. “This must stop now. We must go back to the negotiating table.”

Palestinian officials estimate that airstrikes and shelling have wrecked at least 10,000 houses and seriously damaged 30,000 more. As many as 80 mosques have been damaged or destroyed. Many farming areas and industrial zones, filled with the small manufacturing plants and factories that anchored Gaza’s economy, are now wastelands.

“Most of the life has been destroyed,” said Mofeed Al-Hasayneh, the Palestinian government’s Gaza-based minister of public works and housing, adding that it could take “seven to eight years” to rebuild the houses and other structures without assistance from the world.

Even international relief organizations, accustomed to working in hard-hit war zones, have expressed shock at the scale of the damage.

“I’ve never seen such massive destruction ever before,” Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a tweet Tuesday after visiting Gaza. [Continue reading…]

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