The following is a guest post by a leading Palestinian analyst and commentator.
The following are partial counts of building materials that entered Gaza as of July 6, 2015 for the purpose of reconstruction after the devastation of the latest war:
3,281 trucks carrying 131,240 tons of cement;
353 trucks carrying 12,355 tons of steel;
3,380 trucks carrying 135,200 tons of gravel;
276 trucks carrying 11,040 tons of cement for the Qatari projects;
19,628 trucks carrying 785,120 tons of gravel for the Qatari projects.
It is clear from these counts that the Gaza regime was able to coordinate and obtain the approval of the Israeli side to allow into Gaza 142,280 tons of cement through the Karm Abu-Salem passage in order to facilitate the projects for the reconstruction of Gaza.
It is well known that the Gaza Strip experienced in the last few days the movement of large quantities of cement that drew much attention, but after checking as to who is receiving these large quantities of cement, it became clear that these shipments went to storage facilities of merchants who work under the influence of Hamas.
As of this writing, not a single person of those who need these supplies have received any, and Gazans began wondering about Hamas’ intentions regarding these large quantities of cement.
There is speculation that no one can even get one bag of cement because they are all going to Hamas for the building of bunkers and death tunnels. It is well-known in Gaza that Hamas is getting ready for another confrontation with the IDF, so we wait for more devastation, more victims, and more deaths.
When we interviewed some of those whose homes were destroyed in last year’s war, their answers were very revealing:
One person when asked about his hope for his home to be rebuilt and how long it might take, said, “Hamas brought us war and we said ok. We were threatened that we would be dealt with as collaborators if we evacuated our homes, so we didn’t evacuate, and our homes came crashing on our heads. It is only by God’s mercy that we were not killed, and we said ok. But we reached a point where we have to buy building materials on the black market at extremely high prices while Hamas leaders and members enjoy a comfortable life and have their homes rebuilt without having to account to anyone. This is the ultimate shame brought by what the so-called resistance that brings more destruction. So I dream today of a civil administration that I can provide a better life for my sons.”
Another man said, “we were proud that [Hamas] provided us protection during the war, but the tragedy is that this protection came at a high price: the confiscation and destruction of our homes. Today they enjoy a comfortable life while we suffer with nobody caring about us. We are still waiting on the promises of [the Palestinian Authority] and Hamas, but it is becoming clear that they all lie, so today we only wait for God’s mercy”, and he broke down crying from the pain of missing his son and his destroyed home that is no longer safe to live in.
Gaza residents are divided into two groups: citizens who do not have ration cards and who get no benefits from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and immigrants who have ration cards and enjoy the relief agency services. As far as UNRWA is concerned, its main focus is to rebuild the destroyed homes for the immigrants, and after that maybe look into helping the citizens.
We talked to someone who does not hold a ration card and he said:
“I wish my grandfather had migrated from Gaza and then came back so I could get a ration card. We did not know that the day would come when this card would mean everything to us. It is just cruel that my neighbor receives thousands of dollars to buy cement to rebuild his house while I wait on the mercy of the government of hypocrisy (he means the Palestinian ‘unity’ government). For me to rebuild my destroyed home I have to borrow money, and the lender would have to wait to get paid since we only get little money from the government. Sadly it is not possible to find someone who would lend me the money.”
Local Gazans are also concerned over UNRWA’s difficult financial situation. We must wonder if the agency will be forced to cancel an academic year, which would not save much money and would likely not help much in rebuilding our destroyed homes.
Another citizen complained about the failure of UNRWA to effectively rebuild what the war has destroyed. He said:
“The agency’s employees in Gaza first take care of Hamas and its members while throwing in our faces its financial crisis to avoid fulfilling its responsibilities toward us. They just give us food and medicine and that is the best we can get from it.”
If you walk around in Gaza to gauge the true meaning of corruption, you will find it at the government in Gaza. Unfortunately, UNRWA remains silent and avoids confronting Hamas about its corruption and its excesses both in regard to reconstruction and other matters.
As a result, the residents of Gaza do not trust anyone to solve Gaza’s problems, especially with regard to reconstruction and electricity. The phrase most often heard among the residents of Gaza is: “we wish the Israeli Civil Administration would return.”