Gazans returning to war-ravaged Jabalia ‘shocked’ by destruction

Gazans returning to war-ravaged Jabalia ‘shocked’ by destruction

Palestinians carry salvaged items as they leave the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip after briefly returning to check on their homes on May 30, 2024. Photo by Omar AL-QATTAA / AFP.

Jabalia, Gaza Strip: Mohammed Al-Najjar, a 33-year-old Gazan, said Saturday he was “shocked” and felt “lost” as he returned home to find much of the refugee camp of Jabalia in ruins after an Israeli offensive.

“All the houses have been reduced to ruins,” Najjar told AFP in Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip.

“You are lost, you don’t know where exactly your home is in the middle of this massive destruction.”

Israeli occupying forces have carried out a massive bombing campaign in Jabalia in recent weeks, part of a fierce ground offensive in northern Gaza, an area the army had previously declared outside Hamas’s control.

“I was shocked by the scale of the destruction during the latest assault on the Jabalia camp,” Najjar said.

In recent days, AFP correspondents have seen dozens of Palestinians streaming into the region, trying to return to their homes and salvage what was left of them.

Men, women and children walked the streets where their homes once stood, now full of gray concrete slabs.

Charred furniture, beds and mangled iron doors littered almost every street in the camp, a once bustling area home to more than 100,000 people, according to pre-war U.N. figures.

Many families carried their belongings on carts pulled by donkeys, while others walked with beds and mattresses on their heads.

“We have no place other than our homes,” said Suad Abu Salah, 47, who also returned after fleeing the area at the start of the attack, now approaching its eighth month.
But “Jabalia has been wiped off the map,” she said.

The Israeli entity’s aggressive offensive has killed at least 36,379 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

“Stay on our land”

Despite the destruction, Najjar said people were “determined” to return to the neighborhoods they had left to avoid the fighting.

Residents were ready to “set up tents and temporary shelters amid the rubble,” he said, even though there is “fear, fear that the (Israeli) occupation will return.”

“But we will stay on our land. We have nowhere else.”

On Friday, the Israeli army announced that it had completed its mission in eastern Jabalia, where it had previously announced that Hamas had regrouped.

On Saturday, residents of Jabalia said they could still hear constant gunfire and artillery coming from the east.

New fighting broke out in the north in early May, around the same time that Israeli occupation troops took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.

In the latest operation, Israeli occupying forces in Jabalia recovered the bodies of seven hostages, and last month the occupying army reported “perhaps the fiercest” fighting since it began. of the war.

Mahmud Assaliyah, 50, said “houses were demolished and entire buildings were completely destroyed in Jabalia.”

“There is not a single house that has not been targeted by the Israeli occupation army.”

He returned to find that his house had also been razed.

“Cement pillars fell, walls were destroyed, furniture was scattered, set on fire and torn apart,” Assaliyah said.

Abu Salah said many residents are tired of being displaced and simply want to stay put, no matter what.

“We want to live like other people in the world,” she said.

“We need a solution and an end to this war, so we can live in peace.”