Middle East & Africa
Israeli Forces Leave Northern Gaza in Ruins
By Yasser AbuMoailek
Mid East Correspondent
Gaza City, Sept. 11, 2004 — Israeli forces withdrew from the northern Gaza Strip area, leaving behind extensive damage and a large toll of killed, wounded and destruction. After a four-day invasion and full closure on the towns of Beit Hanoon, Beit Lahya and the northern parts of Jabalya refugee camp, Israeli tanks and armored vehicles pulled out early on Saturday. Doctors at the local Kamal Adwan Hospital say more than eight Palestinians were killed, most of them teenagers, and about a hundred others were wounded. In addition to the large casualty toll, the residents of northern Gaza emerged out in the morning to find that their lands, houses and shops laid in ruins. As he surveyed what was left of his building materials' store, Haj Adnan Awad sighed, "May God help us ... it is not the doing of humans. They destroyed what I have been building for 15 years in just one hour. They also tore down my house. Now I'm left homeless with my seven children."
|General view of the damages inflicted by Israeli forces to the Jabalya refugee camp, north of Gaza Strip.|
Electricity, phone and water lines were cut off, as pools of sewage water scattered amidst concrete rubble and uprooted trees. Some phone company workers and water plumbers worked on restoring cleaning water to thousands of residents who have not had any water for almost four days. Israeli military sources argued the destruction of homes and buildings came to prevent local resistance fighters from launching homemade rockets, known as Qassam, towards Israeli towns and Jewish settlements near Gaza Strip. However, Haj Awad swore that he never saw a resistance fighter fire a rocket near his store. "They usually fire 'Qassams' from the other part of town. So why Israelis destroyed my properties?!" Local Palestinian sources say the Israeli invasion, which is the largest in months, came as part of the Israeli government's retaliation to the double suicide bombing in the city of Beer Sheva on August 13, which left 16 Israelis dead.
|Palestinians salvage furniture and valuables from their destroyed house in the northern Gaza Strip refugee camp of Jabalya, after Israeli forces withdrew from it following a four-day offensive.|
On his part, Emad Al Falouji, a Palestinian legislator and former minister who was inspecting the area, said the amount of Israeli destruction was unjustified and inexplicable. "Israel is undermining all efforts to restore calm in the region," he told the Seoul Times. Municipal officials in northern Gaza governorate estimated that about a dozen houses were completely demolished, in addition to several stores, warehouses and workshops. Some streets were completely damaged and entire plantations were razed by the Israeli bulldozers. Israeli forces, despite pulling out of the area, maintained presence elsewhere in northern Gaza, as a tight closure was imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip till the end of the month, during the Jewish New Year holiday, citing security reasons and possible attacks as a reason for the closure.
|A baby sleeps among the rubble of her house in the Jabalya refugee camp, north of Gaza. Israeli forces demolished more than a dozen houses and damaged several others during a four-day invasion of the camp.|
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Yasser AbuMoailek, who is Certified Professional Translator between Arabic and English, serves as Middle East correspondent for The Seoul Times. He also work as a journalist and feature writer at the International Press Center in Gaza Strip. As a journalist he monitors the situation in the Middle East, especially the Palestinian territories.