Tents have replaced some high-rises in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya, where heavy Israeli air strikes left several families homeless and doubtful that rebuilding will start soon.
Palestinians in the enclave have already received some pledges of financial help for reconstruction after 11 days of fighting. Egypt and Qatar, which helped to mediate a truce that started on Friday, each promised to allocate $500 million.
In Beit Lahiya, children played among the wreckage of homes. Adults drank tea on broken furniture. Banners carried the names of the bereft homeowners. A sign bore the names of four children, two women and two men killed in the bombing.
Abdallah Zawaraa and his family survived one such strike, on May 13. The 23-year-old barber, his mother and siblings were visiting relatives when their house was reduced to rubble.
"After the bombardment, we have no place to stay except the tent," he told Reuters, saying the family was looking for a house to rent.
Citing stories of Palestinians whose homes have yet to be rebuilt following the Gaza wars of 2014 and 2008/2009, Zawaraa added: "I've become worried, and I am terrified."
Witnesses said 30 Israeli air strikes hit the area during the fighting. Israel has said its attacks were aimed at Palestinian freedom fighters and their military stockpiles and that measures were taken to avoid civilian casualties.
The United States has offered some help but said that Hamas, which runs Gaza and showered Israel with rockets during the conflict, must not have a role in the rebuilding process. Gaza Hamas chief Yehya Sinwar said on Wednesday his group would not be an obstacle.
Gaza's housing ministry said 1,500 housing units were completely destroyed, another 1,500 housing units had been damaged beyond repair and 17,000 others suffered partial damage. A ministry official put the cost of rebuilding homes at $150m.
The official said 2,000 housing units destroyed in previous armed conflicts had yet to be rebuilt. Rebuilding them would cost another $200m, he said.
At least 254 people were killed in Gaza and more than 1,900 wounded, Palestinian health authorities said. Israel said 13 people were allegedly killed by Gaza rockets and a guided-missile attack.
"I raised my children in this house. We have a lot of memories. The house may return, but memories can't," Zawaraa's mother Amena said.
In Gaza City, Zeyad Dahman, a retired public official whose house had been destroyed in 2014 and has not yet been rebuilt, said he could feel for the new victims.
"I hope the issue will be resolved soon and that the people whose houses were destroyed will not go through the same suffering we have had to endure for many years," said Dahman.
Header image: Palestinians from Zawaraa family sit near candles in a makeshift tent amid the rubble of their houses which were destroyed by Israeli air strikes during the Israeli attacks on Gaza, May 25, 2021. — Reuters