A Palestinian taxi driver sits in his damaged car as he waits for passengers in Gaza City, Monday, September 22, 2014. (Photograph credit: Mohammed Salem/Reuters)
People in Gaza are trying to rebuild their lives as the ceasefire took effect on August 26 after a seven-week conflict. The war, the longest and deadliest fought between Israel and Hamas in less than six years, left 2,139 Palestinians dead, with most of those civilians, and around 11,000 wounded. The dead were buried and the wounded are trying to heal while hundreds of thousands of tons of rubble –remnants of the devastating Israeli bombardment– still remains in place, remind the survivors of death every morning. About 50,000 houses in Gaza Strip were totally or partially destroyed, and close to 100,000 Palestinians are homeless out of a population of 1.8 million. Housing shortages, already problematic, has deepened after the war. Apartment rents have more than doubled since the war ended, as thousands of displaced residents elbow into a saturated housing market. An average two-bedroom apartment went for US$200 per month before the war; now it can rent for as much as US$500. Rebuilding Gaza will cost more than US$8 billion, but it remains uncertain when or how long it will take. Some experts, noting that numerous Gaza buildings destroyed in previous Israel-Hamas wars were never rebuilt, express pessimism that reconstruction will begin soon.
Scores of factories that employed thousands of laborers were completely destroyed and hundreds of small businesses collapsed, raising the unemployment rate to 50 percent according to unofficial estimates. Work has begun in some areas of Gaza’s dying economy, noticeably in fishing sector. Fishermen have returned for fishing off Gaza’s shore. According to the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, the zone permitted for fishing is supposed to be increased from three to six miles, but Gaza fishermen claim that when they exceed the four-mile range from shore, Israeli naval boats fire warning shots at them. Thus, they are forced to turn back toward the narrow coastline, where fishing prospects are limited. Enlarging the fishing zone is of great importance to Gaza residents as the sea has become their main source of livelihood. "Gaza is rushing back to a veneer of normalcy at astonishing speed. Street cafes and beaches are packed with people until late at night. Families crowd the few public parks, and wedding halls are booked solid," the AP reported September 15. “Far from a celebration, however, Gazans themselves acknowledge the revelry is only to thinly mask trauma and widespread despair,” the agency added. The recent 50-day war only strengthened the belief of many here that they have no future in Gaza. Palestinian youths face a gloomy future as a result of Israel’s atrocities during its military onslaught on the besieged enclave. Dreams of emigration are now far more common in Gaza, and the recent war prompted a wave of attempts by Palestinians to reach Europe with the aid of Egyptian smugglers.