Wednesday, July 6

Rebuilding Gaza Once Again: The Aftermath of the May 2021 Attack

In 2012, the United Nations issued an alarming warning: either the situation changes now, or the Gaza Strip could no longer be “a habitable place” by 2020. Unemployment, poverty and food insecurity were high; access to water and electricity were irregular; the entire territory, built within artificial borders, was densely populated and lacked services. Children make up half of its population, and nearly three-quarters of it are refugees, who were forced to flee their homes during the 1948 Nakba. Israel has been restricting movement to and from Gaza since the early 1900s. 1990s, but the 2006 elections, which brought Hamas to power in the small territory, gave rise to the current situation, in which the movement of many goods and people in and out of Gaza is essentially prohibited due to the imposed blockade. for Israel and Egypt. Since that report, Gaza has suffered multiple destructive attacks by Israel, continues to live under the blockade and, more recently, has had to cope with devastating consequences of the pandemic COVID-19.

Billions of dollars have been spent rebuilding Gaza for decades, but conditions have only deteriorated. For this and many other reasons, today Gaza as a humanitarian catastrophe: a civilian population of almost 2 million people caught between political forces who care little for the lives of innocents in the crossfire.

In May 2021, Gaza suffered the most recent attack, in which the Israeli aerial bombardments killed 256 Palestinians (including 66 children) and injured nearly 2,000 more. More than 1,000 homes and business premises were destroyed and another 16,000 were damaged. Nearly 60 educational facilities and nearly 30 sanitary facilities were also damaged. As soon as the airstrikes began, and especially after the ceasefire was announced, pledges for financial aid came from the usual donors. However, the many lessons learned from previous attacks indicated that these reconstruction efforts would be, at best, futile and would do nothing to address the root causes of the conflict. What is the future of the reconstruction of Gaza – and its population – after this latest offensive?

Although the final cost of the damage caused by the May 2021 offensive is still unknown, estimates are in the billions of dollars. However, many of the costs of this most recent war, and previous ones, are incalculable. For example, Gaza was entering another wave of COVID-19 in the spring. However, many Hospitals and healthcare facilities were damaged, including the main COVID-19 testing laboratory. In addition, the main doctor in charge of the response to the pandemic in Gaza, Dr. Ayman Abu Alouf, was killed. The facilities managed by Doctors Without Borders also suffered damage. In addition to limiting access to health services, the burden of mental health in Gaza it is already excessively high due to the years of war and blockade. Some children, even young, show signs of traumatic stress. Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza urgently need mental health support that is difficult to provide, and insufficient as long as the root causes of their trauma persist, long after the shelling has stopped.

Although the lack of funding is a major obstacle, the funding shortage is certainly not unique to Gaza. It is difficult to find a humanitarian crisis that receives all the financial support it needs, or even all the money pledged by donors. Development aid has stalled in recent years, especially for the most vulnerable populations, while global military spending continues to rise. However, apart from poverty and lack of financial resources, Gaza faces other challenges that are almost unique to this small territory.

The most important, of course, is the blockade, that already is approaching 15 years. Considered a clear violation of international humanitarian law For more than a decade, the blockade has been one of the most destructive forces in Gaza. Aid agencies have long warned that the blockade makes reconstruction difficult, let alone everyday life; In 2016, less than 10% of the homes destroyed in the 2014 war had been rebuilt. Israel has to approve all construction materials entering Gaza, including pipes, machinery such as generators (needed due to constant power outages), and even cement. Due to the perception of these resources as “dual use” (loosely defined as any item that could potentially be used for terrorism), Israel scrutinizes all applications and limits the amount of these materials that can be imported. Recognizing this reality, as soon as the last ceasefire occurred, the ICRC Middle East director predicted: “The damage inflicted in less than two weeks will take years, if not decades, to rebuild.”

The Palestinian population does not benefit from continued condemnation, rejection, or concern when their lives are treated as throwaway. If these fundamental injustices are once again ignored, this latest episode of attacks it won’t be the last. The international community will be asked to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to “rebuild” Gaza, once again.

“A longer version of this article was first published in English by the Arab Center Washington DC at:, republished with permission. ”

Yara M. Asi She is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Healthcare Management and Informatics at the University of Central Florida and a Fulbright Scholar for the 2020-2021 course in the West Bank.