HomeTop StoriesFamilies in Gaza have waited years to move into new homes. ...

Families in Gaza have waited years to move into new homes. Political power struggles keep them out

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli fighter jets bombed the Zorob family’s two-story home in the Gaza Strip in 2019, leaving behind nothing but a pile of rubble and despair.

Four years later, the family of 10 is living in a 20-square-meter hut covered in nylon sheets while they wait to move into a permanent home.

A sprawling housing project, part of an Egyptian-funded $500 million renewal effort in Gaza, has raised hope for hundreds of needy families like the Zorobs, who have lost their homes in the conflict with Israel.

But weeks before the pristine white buildings are due to be completed, there is no word on who will qualify for the 1,400 apartments — or even how to apply for one, while Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the rival, internationally recognized Palestinian Authority bickering over who qualifies. being in charge.

“Nobody cares,” said 31-year-old Mohammed Zorob, who blamed both sides for the delays. “They sit under the air conditioners with their children and don’t care about us.”

According to Gaza’s Housing Ministry, the Zorobs are among an estimated 2,000 families, or about 12,000 people, whose homes have been destroyed in fighting with Israel in recent years. Another 90,000 people live in damaged homes that have not been repaired, the report said.

A sputtering economy weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, Hamas’s international isolation and a lack of funding from a weary international community have all hampered reconstruction efforts. But behind all these problems lies the ongoing rivalry between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

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In 2007, Hamas, an Islamist militant group that opposes Israel’s existence, took control of Gaza from the PA, a year after winning parliamentary elections. The violent takeover left the PA in control of only the semi-autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, even though it claims to be the legitimate international representative of both areas.

Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group and immediately imposed a blockade with Egypt, which it says is a measure to prevent Hamas from arming itself. The closure has devastated Gaza’s economy and fueled four wars and countless smaller rounds of violence. Repeated reconciliation attempts by Hamas and the PA have failed.

The project marks the first Egyptian-funded infrastructure project in the enclave, following a series of Arab-funded developments aimed at easing Gaza’s housing crisis. Egypt, which often mediates between Israel and Hamas as well as between rival Palestinian factions, announced the aid after an eight-day war in 2021.

Two senior Egyptian officials confirmed that Cairo’s government is working with rival Palestinian factions on the project. They said Egypt has called on the parties to form a joint committee to oversee the distribution of houses, but little progress has been made.

“Unfortunately, both sides want to control the process,” said one official, noting that the issue had come up during discussions during a recent visit to Egypt by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “This is not a project for Hamas or Fatah. It is for the Palestinian people.”

Both Egyptian officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

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Jawad al-Agha, the deputy housing minister in Gaza’s Hamas-led government, said his office has submitted a proposal to Egypt on how the apartments should be allocated. But he gave no details and said no decisions had been made pending a meeting between the parties.

The PA Housing Ministry in the West Bank did not return messages seeking comment.

The standoff has left thousands of families in limbo. Most have been waiting for almost a decade, after losing their homes during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2014.

The Zorob family’s home was hit in 2019 during a battle between Israel and the militant group Islamic Jihad. Just before the airstrike, Israel called the family and ordered them to evacuate. No one was injured, but the house was destroyed.

The family says they have no ties to any militant group and do not know why their home was targeted.

Mohammed Zorob, father of a two-month-old child, said he spent five years building an apartment on the second floor of the building. “Imagine spending five years of your life building your house, and in the blink of an eye Israel focuses on the building,” he said.

His father, Moneer, said conditions in their dilapidated home are unbearable. “I suffer from heat and humidity, and in the winter we have problems with water leaking into the house,” he said. The one-room house in the family’s front yard – made of concrete and nylon – has a cramped kitchen and a small toilet.

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Moneer’s wife, Maha, said caring for an adult daughter with cancer has added to the difficulties. Her daughter has a weak immune system and should be kept away from family members who even have a cold.

‘Where can I isolate her when I only have one room?’ she said.

Ibrahim Abrash, a former minister and political writer, said international donor countries have become frustrated by the repeated cycles of violence and distracted by other crises, most notably the war in Ukraine.

But he said the ongoing fighting between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas remains a major obstacle to Gaza’s recovery.

“When donors, Egypt or others, provide money, the question is: ‘Who is the legitimate Palestinian party that can be trusted to monitor?’” he said.

Hazem Isleem, a 42-year-old father of seven, reflects the disillusionment felt by many.

Isleem worked as a security guard at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and had the harrowing experience of seeing his own family pass through the hospital gate. His 11-year-old daughter Farah lost a leg in the 2021 conflict that also destroyed their home. The family now lives in a rented apartment that he can barely afford.

“When the news about these new housing units came out, I held on to hope. But that hope turns into despair,” he said.

Isleem said he has visited the Housing Ministry regularly, each time leaving with more questions than answers.

“We live in a state of constant uncertainty,” he said.


AP correspondent Samy Magdy contributed from Cairo.

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