Gaza families return to homes in ruins

ABASAN, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES- Tea and cheese sandwiches are on the breakfast menu for Taghrid al-Najjar’s children. It should be an everyday moment, but their home in the Gaza Strip is now mostly rubble. The walls have collapsed, with furniture and appliances buried under concrete. Until the war, the 46-year-old mother had never left her farming village along the border with Israel in the southeast of the Strip. Since Friday a truce has paused the fighting between Israel and Hamas, allowing them to return to a neighbourhood in ruins. “It is only here that I feel good,” she said. Najjar fled when Israeli bombardments started as it went to war with Hamas in retaliation for the October 7 attacks. For weeks she lived with nine members of her family in a Khan Yunis school converted into a makeshift camp for displaced people. The Hamas-led government says nearly 15,000 people, also mostly civilians, have been killed in the Gaza war, and Najjar said dozens of people in her wider extended family have died. As soon as the truce went into effect on Friday -- it has now been extended for an additional two days -- she began making her way home to Abasan on foot. “I discovered that my house had been completely destroyed -- 27 years of my life to build it and everything is gone!” she said. “For two days I couldn’t eat, then I told myself that I had to continue living,” she added, looking at her children. “My house is destroyed but my children are alive, so we will rebuild. We have already done it once, we can do it again,” she told AFP. Each night the family squeezes through a window to sleep in the only room where the walls have not entirely crumpled. Once there is a permanent ceasefire, Najjar said, they will pitch a tent, but only for “long enough to rebuild the house”. Her 64-year-old neighbour Jamil Abu Azra’s main concern was his four young grandchildren.

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