GAZA (Reuters) – Three months after the war in Gaza, Sadeeqa Naseer still lives in a bomb site. Air strikes turned the two upper floors of her three-storey apartment building in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun into a rubble-strewn ruin.
Thirty-five people shelter on the ground floor, where holes blasted in the wall by tank shells have been covered over only by plastic sheeting that does little to keep out the cold wind and driving rain of the fast-approaching winter.
Someone managed to extend an electric cable from a nearby building, providing just enough power to run a fridge and keep a single lamp on during the night.
But there is no cement to rebuild, and no one can get a bulldozer to clear the rubble.
Men were chipping futilely at concrete slabs with hammers.
“Who could live here?” asks Naseer, 60, who said she had received no aid from the United Nations or anyone else.
Since the July-August war between Israel and the Hamas militants that run Gaza, in which more than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed, barely any progress has been made rebuilding the shattered territory, despite donors pledging $5 billion.
Israel tightly monitors the import of construction materials and equipment into Gaza, arguing that otherwise it could be used to rebuild tunnels used by Hamas militants who control the strip to carry out attacks.
Palestinian officials and critics of Israeli policy say that has made it impossible to rebuild, leaving 40,000 of the strip’s 1.8 million residents in temporary shelter and thousands more facing winter in barely habitable ruins.
“The cement and gravel are being regulated as if they were a nuclear weapon,” said Sari Bashi, co-founder of Gisha, an Israeli organisation which monitors access to Gaza and says only a tiny fraction of cement needed to satisfy demand is reaching the strip.
An Israeli government official said Israel was willing to help in any way to ensure reconstruction in Gaza moved forward rapidly, but it also wanted to be sure that Hamas was not rebuilding its militant infrastructure.