Gazans life turns to rubble

GAZA: Gaza’s scars have been frozen in place since Israel waged war a year ago to subdue Hamas and stop rockets from hitting its towns. Entire neighbourhoods still lie in rubble, and traumatised residents cannot rebuild their lives.

A man, who lost two daughters and his home cannot visit his surviving 4-year-old girl in a Belgian hospital because Gaza’s borders remain sealed. A 15-year-old struggles to walk on her artificial limbs, while dozens of other war amputees still await prostheses.

Couples postpone marriage because not enough apartments survived three weeks of bombing and shelling. Thousands are homeless, and damaged systems mean electricity and water are sporadic. Untreated sewage pours into the Mediterranean.

A three-year-old blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt makes any large-scale rebuilding impossible, because the embargo includes steel and concrete.

The unprecedented use of Israeli firepower against the Palestinians has had repercussions far beyond the pain inflicted on Gaza’s long-suffering 1.5 million people.

It emboldened Gaza’s Hamas rulers by failing to topple them, and weakened their Western-backed Fatah rivals, whom Palestinians increasingly see as subordinate to Israel. It deepened the political split between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Fatah-governed West Bank, making a unified Palestinian government — a prerequisite for any peace deal —even less likely. Israel largely succeeded in stopping the rocket fire, and its towns and villages that lived under constant threat have blossomed.

But the quiet is fragile, and the screams of Palestinian civilians and bloody scenes in Gaza that filled TV sets and Web sites worldwide badly damaged Israel’s international standing.

By the time a cease-fire took effect January 18, about 1,400 Gazans had been killed, including hundreds of civilians, according to Palestinian and Israeli human rights researchers. Israel’s military gave a lower toll, of 1,166 and said a majority were combatants, but did not release a list of names. Thirteen Israelis were also killed in the war.