Home News Middle East crisis: Palestinians returning to Jabaliya encounter widespread destruction

Middle East crisis: Palestinians returning to Jabaliya encounter widespread destruction


Residents returning to the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya on Friday had expected to find extensive destruction, but said they were still shocked by the level of damage they saw after three weeks of Israel’s offensive on the densely populated urban area.

“The devastation is indescribable,” said Mohammad Awais, who returned to his home in Jabalia with his family on Friday. “We can’t comprehend what we are seeing.”

He said he and his family walked for nearly an hour along the destroyed road in the scorching heat and found the streets filled with rubble from houses and shops destroyed by the Israeli army, making them impassable for vehicles.

As they walked, rescue workers passed by, carrying the injured and bodies of the dead on stretchers. Some bodies were found on the street, while others were dug out from the rubble – already beginning to decompose, said Awais, a social media marketer.

“Even ambulances cannot pass through these streets to transport the wounded and martyrs,” he said of Jabaliya’s streets.

Israel’s military said on Friday it had ended its offensive on eastern Jabaliya and was withdrawing after recovering the bodies of seven hostages, killing hundreds of fighters and destroying miles of an underground tunnel network.

Satellite images taken by Planet Labs in late May show the scale of the damage in the southern part of the town and areas near the market.

Imagery from April showed some buildings in the area had been destroyed before the latest Israeli offensive, but by the end of May, many more buildings in those areas appeared to have been razed to the ground, along with nearly all vegetation.

Mr. Awais and his family are among the few residents who still have a place to return to. Their home was only partially damaged. On Friday, they began clearing collapsed walls, broken wood and glass, and damaged furniture so that their home can be habitable again. But he said the Family Mart, which had to be closed last December due to the Israeli siege on Gaza, was completely destroyed.

He added: “There was rubble everywhere.”

On May 11, the Israeli military said it had updated its attack Jabaliya was blocked by Israel because Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that launched the October 7 attack, is trying to rebuild infrastructure and military operations in the area. At the time, Hamas accused Israel of “escalating aggression against civilians in Gaza” and vowed to continue fighting.

The October 7 attack was followed by weeks of heavy Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, followed by its first incursion into northern Gaza. The Israeli military launched several deadly raids on Jabaliya, where many people had survived the early months of the war, believing that Israel would not launch another offensive.

A Palestinian man rides a donkey cart past a damaged school in Jabaliya, northern Gaza City.Credit…Omar Khatta/AFP—Getty Images
People rest among the ruins after Israeli troops withdrew from the Jabaliya area on Friday.Credit…Mahmoud Issa/Reuters

“Residents returned with tears in their eyes,” said Gaza journalist Hossam Shbat. “All we saw was ruins, devastation and ruins. And more carnage.”

He added: “Residents returned to see the unimaginable: destruction of businesses, infrastructure and shelters housing thousands of displaced people.”

Jabaliya is often referred to as a refugee camp because it was established more than 70 years ago by Palestinian refugees who were expelled or forced to flee their homes in present-day Israel during the creation of the state. They were never allowed to return, and Jabaliya gradually developed into a community inhabited by refugees and their descendants.

in a video Mr. Shibat showed the ruins of Jabalia around him in a video recorded on Thursday. Behind him, fire still burned in the wreckage of a four-story building.

“We have no words to describe it,” he said in an interview. “The occupation forces have deliberately destroyed all the necessities of life.”

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