Israel Palestine Conflict

Gaza residents plead for permanent ceasefire amid devastation in Khan Younis

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Returning home to find their neighborhood wrecked by bombs, residents of Abu Taimah on the outskirts of Gaza’s Khan Younis said the Palestinian territory needed a permanent ceasefire, not just an extension of the truce between Israel and Hamas.

Local people fled the area on the eastern edge of the city at the start of the war and did not return until the truce, which was in its sixth day on Wednesday.

“We were shocked to see this destruction. We were shocked to see our homes, our streets, our lands, our yards and everything demolished,” said Gihad Nabil, who was recently married and had been living in Abu Taimah with his wife.

A mosque destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict lies in ruin, amid a temporary truce between the Palestinian militia group Hamas and Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 29, 2023. (Reuters)
A mosque destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict lies in ruin, amid a temporary truce between the Palestinian militia group Hamas and Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 29, 2023. (Reuters)

Standing on a roof with a view of ruined buildings and mounds of rubble as far as the eye could see, he said the area had been home to about 5,000 or 6,000 people before the war. He asked where they would go.

“My house is completely destroyed. My brother’s home, my uncle’s my neighbor’s, all of them destroyed. We don’t need this truce, we need a complete ceasefire,” he said, likening what he was seeing to an earthquake zone.

Palestinians look at the houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinians look at the houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)

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As Nabil and another man sat on the roof, talking and smoking a shisha pipe, a group of children down below sat around a small fire built on a pile of rubble and warmed up bread, which they shared.

A Palestinian man smokes shisha as he looks at the houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)
A Palestinian man smokes shisha as he looks at the houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)

Three of the children climbed onto the carcass of a car whose pockmarked blue metalwork looked like crumpled paper and posed for a Reuters camera, framed by twisted cables and jagged chunks of concrete.

Militants from Hamas, the group that runs Gaza, triggered the war on Oct. 7 when they rampaged through southern Israel, killing 1,200 people including babies and children and taking 240 hostages of all ages, according to Israel’s tally.

Palestinians cook among the houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinians cook among the houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched an assault on Gaza that has killed more than 15,000 people, four in 10 of them children, according to health officials there.

Gone in a moment

The war has displaced 80 of Gazans from their homes, according to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who on Wednesday described the situation as an epic humanitarian catastrophe.

Palestinians walk among the rubble, as they inspect houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinians walk among the rubble, as they inspect houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)

Abdelrahman Abu Taimah, a member of the clan that gave the area its name, searched through his bombed-out apartment, pulling clothes and a pink mattress from the debris.

“I have been struggling and working for 30 years in this country,” he said, adding that even before the war life was hard because of the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt since 2007, when Hamas took control of the enclave.

“Money doesn’t come easy, then all of a sudden, all the work and effort of 30 years disappeared in a moment. One rocket makes all this goes away. Why is that?” he asked.

Palestinians cook among the houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinians cook among the houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)

From the start of its attack, Israel told Palestinians living in northern Gaza to move to the southern part of the strip, which includes Khan Younis and its environs.

However, Israeli forces have also pounded the south, though less intensively than the north. Israel says it targets Hamas infrastructure, and accuses Hamas of putting civilians in harm’s way by using them as human shields.

Palestinians cook among the houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinians cook among the houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian militia group Hamas, at Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 29, 2023. (Reuters)

Diplomatic efforts were underway on Wednesday to prolong the truce, which has allowed more aid trucks to enter Gaza and some Israeli and foreign hostages to be released, as well as some Palestinian detainees to be freed from Israeli prisons.

But Abu Taimah said a short truce was not enough and he longed for a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Ever since we were born, we’ve been enduring wars and destruction. Every time we rebuild, there comes a fiercer war than the one before,” he said.

With Reuters

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