Some 18 months after Israel’s Operation Protective Edge campaign in the Gaza Strip, some 75,000 Gazans are still internally displaced, with almost one in four people (23%) living in the rubble of their damaged homes, according to a report published Monday.
Only 3,000 out of an estimated 18,000 Gazan homes destroyed or badly damaged during the summer 2014 war have been rebuilt or repaired, according to OCHA — the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The figures emerge from research visits to the more than 16,000 families still displaced as a result of the 2014 war.
While the entry of cement into the enclave for building increased from summer 2015, progress has been slow thanks to “ongoing Israeli restrictions, the slow pace of disbursement of pledges made by member states for reconstruction, and the inability of the Palestinian Government of National Consensus to assume effective government functions in Gaza,” the report said.
It The report raised fears that reconstruction efforts may be further hampered by an Israeli government decision earlier this month to suspend cement imports as part of a crackdown on what it says is the diversion of building materials for the construction by the ruling Hamas government of smuggling and attack tunnels that threaten Israel.
Hamas is an Islamist terror group openly dedicated to destroying Israel. It built terror tunnels under the Israeli border before the 2014 war, and some of its leaders have bragged that it is again tunneling under the border.
OCHA estimated that some 70,000 units need to be built in the Strip to make up for natural growth and the cumulative effects of conflict and restrictions on the entry of building materials.
Six in ten of those who owned their homes before the war told researchers that they were renting accommodation, which included living in storerooms, unfinished units, substandard apartments in relatives’ or neighbors’ buildings, or with extended
On average, they had moved more than twice, with nearly half expressing concern they would be forced to leave their current place of residence as well.
At the height of Operation Protective Edge, nearly 500,000 Gazans, 28% of the population, were displaced from their homes, the report said, fleeing to UNRWA schools, government schools, informal shelters, and the homes of host families.
Some 11,000 homes were totally destroyed, 6,800 were severely damaged, 5,700 suffered major damage and 147,500 minor damage.
Nearly half of the displaced families (47%) do not have enough food to eat, the study found, and three in four depend on trucked water, because of inadequate clean water supplies from the taps.
The report said the hostilities exacerbated the vulnerability of groups such as households headed by women, children and people with disabilities. Some 44,000 children were displaced at the time of the survey, after an estimated 27,000 children had experienced the complete destruction of their homes.
More than 1,500 children were orphaned in the war, the report said, with 551 children killed and 3,436 injured. Many of the latter now have to cope with life-long disabilities. UNICEF and the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry have previously reported a far lower figure, of 296–315 Palestinian children killed due to Israeli action; Israel claims the UN and Hamas have inflated the civilian death toll.
Nearly one in six displaced children has been suffering from increased psycho-social distress since the 2014 war, but only six percent reported receiving psycho-social support.
More than 30% of internally displaced women live in shelter conditions that fall short in safety, dignity and privacy including tents, makeshift shelters, destroyed houses, and the open air, the report said.
Quoting the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the report said some 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed and more than 11,000 injured during the war.
Israel, for its part, has said that up to half of those killed on the Palestinian side were combatants, and has blamed the civilian death toll on Hamas for deliberately placing rocket launchers, tunnels and other military installations among civilians. Seventy-three people were killed on the Israeli side of the conflict.
Coordinated by OCHA, the study involved Palestinian ministries, local and international nongovernmental organizations and UN agencies. Its aim was to identify needs, improve humanitarian assistance and lobby for displaced people’s rights.