‘The Joy Disappeared’: As Ramadan Begins, Gazans Fear Next Round of Violence

Hundreds of homes were destroyed by Israeli attacks on the Strip, leaving many families homeless and dampening the mood for the holy month of fasting

At least $5 million in damage from Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip since Saturday morning has been estimated by a preliminary evaluation hours after reports following of a cease-fire.

The director of the Labor Ministry in Gaza, Naji Sarhan, said on Monday morning that 130 homes were completely destroyed in Gaza and another 700 were partially damaged. The military compounds and facilities belonging to the other Palestinian groups attacked by the Israel Defense Forces must also be added to these figures.

Hundreds of families in the Gaza Strip have been left homeless as a result of the attacks and the Palestinian government in Gaza and humanitarian groups are obligated to find solutions for them, Sarhan said. “Along with finding alternative housing, there are families who need immediate assistance with basic and humanitarian supplies,” Sarhan added.

The authorities in Gaza have not yet completed the construction of buildings destroyed in Operation Protective Edge during the summer of 2014, when 12,000 homes were destroyed, Sarhan said. About 9,700 of them have been completed and hundreds more families still need a solution, he added.

The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, which has also begun examining the damage caused by the attacks, said the this was the greatest amount of damage caused sine Protective Edge. The electric company in Gaza has reported on heavy damage to the electricity network, and fishermen in Khan Yunis have reported damage to boats and the fishing port.

“If in previous rounds the hits were in facilities and buildings known as security compounds, this time there were hits on civilian buildings and homes,” Samir Zaqut, the deputy head of Al Mezan, told Haaretz. “This also explains the number of injured and killed among civilians including women and children,” he added.

Zaqut noted that the difficult situation in Gaza has caused many residents not to think at all about the month of Ramadan. “You see living people wandering on the streets but inside themselves they are dead, mostly the younger generation and college graduates who are finishing their degrees and have nothing to do,” he said. “Someone in the world needs to wake up and understand that Gaza is on the brink of collapse in every aspect. It is impossible to speak all the time in terms of giving sedatives and we will wait for the next crisis.”

The beginning of Ramadan was marked on Monday throughout the Gaza Strip, and the mosques were filled with worshippers on Sunday evening. Preparations for Ramadan began last week in the city centers in the Gaza Strip and commercial centers were lit with the special lamps symbolizing the month. Despite the harsh economic situation in Gaza, before the weekend there was an expectation that the atmosphere would remain happy in spite of everything.

“It was the weekend and the end of the month, there were those who nonetheless received their salary and so we expected something would change. The store and market owners were filled with the expectation that there would be buyers in advance of the beginning of the month,” said Moneira, a social activist who lives in the Ramal neighborhood of Gaza.

When the attacks began on Friday night the joy disappeared, she said. “It looks like someone wanted to keep us from even this partial joy, and all weekend and yesterday night turned into a one big nightmare,” Moneira said. “I don’t know if this evening and the next few days people will recover, but unfortunately it no longer depends on them.”

Now Gazans in the Strip are waiting for the implementation of the various concessions agreed to in past negotiations with Israel, including expanding the zone where fishing is permitted, bringing in money to pay salaries, opening the border crossings and advancing humanitarian projects in the hope to ease living conditions for the despairing residents.