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Old 08-08-2014, 05:52 PM
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Month-long war in Gaza has left a humanitarian and environmental crisis

Everywhere you look there is destruction: mosques, factories, schools, hospitals, universities and thousands of houses, many shattered into piles of bricks, glass and metal. Roads mangled by military tanks and bulldozers. Cities without electricity, pitch black at night. The main sewage plant disabled, polluting the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.

And amid the ruins, more tragedy looms. Caught between Israeli airstrikes and Hamas mortars and rockets, entire families have been wiped out and their social safety nets destroyed. Nearly one-third of Gaza’s 1.8 million people have been forced to flee their houses, and many are now homeless. Tens of thousands of children are believed to be suffering from psychological trauma, according to the United Nations.

As a temporary cease-fire held for a second day, Palestinians are coming to grips with a deepening humanitarian and environmental crisis that threatens to affect Gaza for years. 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.
And, of course, the ceasefire didn't hold.

I'm not trying to absolve Hamas for their role in this.

I'm just saying, that's a whole lot of innocent people stuck in an absolute disaster.
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