News / Middle East

Gaza Town, Once a Draw for Visitors, Reduced to Rubble

Palestinians search the rubble to collect what they can from their family destroyed houses, hit by Israeli strikes in Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, northern Gaza Strip, Aug. 5, 2014.
Palestinians search the rubble to collect what they can from their family destroyed houses, hit by Israeli strikes in Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, northern Gaza Strip, Aug. 5, 2014.
Reuters

With its spacious villas and palm-lined streets, the town of Khuzaa in southern Gaza gave Palestinians a rare place to spend their free time before it was bombed and shelled to rubble last month.

Largely free of the local tensions and feuds found in other neighborhoods, Khuzaa's green spaces were one of just a few destinations for daytrips in the crowded Gaza Strip, where 1.8 million people live in just 360 square kilometers (140 square miles).

Around 500 meters from the Israeli border, Khuzaa is now only accessible via cratered roads strewn with debris. Nearly all of its homes have been flattened and its nine mosques lie in pieces.

“This was the best area in all of the Gaza Strip, it was a tourist area - secure and safe with no problems and good people,” said Sami Qudih, head of Khuzaa's municipal council.

'No longer exists'

“Khuzaa no longer exists, it is like an earthquake hit,” he said in a makeshift office - a garage next to his destroyed family home.

“We have no water, no electricity, I have been wearing these same clothes for 10 days,” he said, tugging his filthy flannel shirt. “I have no house, I have no Hamas, I have no jihad. I am a citizen, that is it and now I have nothing.”

Israel pulled its ground forces out of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and started a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas as a first step towards negotiations on ending the month-old war.

Gaza officials say the conflict has killed 1,874 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on July 8, after a surge in Palestinian rocket launches.

In Khuzaa, people say at least 70 were killed and more bodies may lie beneath the rubble. It was a site of fierce fighting between Israeli forces, Hamas and other Palestinian militants, who said they detonated explosives and fired anti-tank rockets at Israeli troops.

Israel says it urged residents to leave and seek shelter in nearby Khan Younis before the fighting in Khuzaa began. But residents have said many were not able to leave their houses in time and that some were fired on as they fled upon army's instructions.

Citing residents, Human Rights Watch said on Monday Israeli forces fired on and killed civilians in the town between July 23 to 25, actions which it said if proven, would be war crimes.

Homes destroyed

A once affluent town in a fertile farming area, many of Khuzaa's residents owned land and property, unlike in other parts of the Gaza Strip where people rent or live in camps and temporary shelters.

Now thousands of people from Khuzaa are living in aid shelters in schools and return only to check the damage or gather any belongings they can salvage.

Some 260,000 people are sheltering in U.N. facilities in Gaza and human rights groups put the total number of displaced at 520,000.

After fleeing the violence, Ahmed Awad Abu Salah, 39, returned with his wife, Fariah, to find their home mostly intact but ransacked and littered with tins of food with Hebrew labels they said were left behind by Israeli soldiers.

They found children's clothes and books strewn across the floor, kitchen fittings hanging from the walls and the family's Koran in the toilet. The walls of the once elegant living room are peppered with bullet holes.

“This was once the beautiful garden, there was a fountain, a nice place,” Ahmed said, pointing to a patch of grass covered in crumbling concrete and twisted metal. The date palms planted eight years ago lean at crazy angles.

“Look - they destroyed them one by one,” his wife said, pointing to mounds of debris where homes once stood.

Israel blames Hamas for drawing strikes

Israel has accused Hamas of causing hardship by launching rockets at its cities from Gaza neighborhoods and using mosques and schools as arms depots, thereby drawing Israeli strikes.

With nowhere else to go in Khuzaa, groups of men and boys perch on rubble under trees and cook tea and coffee on open fires. A woman stumbles across mounds of debris, holding a teapot lid she unearthed from the remains of her home. Children run around rotting trash, kicking up the dust.

“This was the best town in all of Gaza, a wealthy area where people lived well together. Now I have no words to describe it,” 54-year-old Mohammed Khalil Najjar said, his voice faltering.

He pointed out his house across the road, a series of floors flattened together and leaning at an angle. He rebuilt the house in 2009 after it was one of the few badly damaged during that Gaza conflict. “I cannot build it again. That's it,” he said.

Gaza officials say it will cost around $6 billion to rebuild devastated infrastructure across the territory.

Qudih, the head of Khuzaa's council, now spends his days driving around in a pickup truck, making sure roads are cleared and that people have water brought in from the next town. He smiles briefly when remembering the kind of town he used to run.

“I have worked in many different places in this region and Khuzaa is different, it is beautiful and safe,” he said, before correcting himself: “It was safe.”

You May Like

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Muhamad the Idiot from: Turkey
August 07, 2014 1:47 PM
well, that is indisputably a victory to the Jihadis and the Philistines and Al Nusra and Al qaida... clearly... no? LOL

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid