Four wars have claimed the lives of residents in Gaza

Tonight, the electricity went out in Jawaher Nassir and Zaki's neighborhood. The only way to survive is from the rubble of their sitting room, which was blasted by Israeli missiles. Twilight and a neighbour's fire provide light.

Four wars have claimed the lives of residents in Gaza

This is Al-Baali, a narrow street that runs just over a half mile from the border between northern Gaza and Israel. The cinderblock houses press against one another before opening up to a small courtyard beneath the Nassirs.

The Nassirs sipped coffee near a window until the third war between Israel and Hamas militants. Children were playing volleyball with a rope instead of a net. The couple also watched as their relatives picked fruit from the yard's olive and fig trees.

They now spend their days looking at the debris of the May 14 airstrike with broken plastic chairs, while they wait for building inspectors. The gaping holes in the surrounding homes serve as windows into the upheaval in their community.

Children play video games on top of a slab made of concrete in the skeleton of a building. Another shows a man standing beside a bed of debris and looking up at the ceiling fan that hangs overhead like a dead flower. The air is suffused with the smell of plaster dust and pulverized cement.

Every afternoon demolition workers arrive to hammer away at the stage so that the Nassirs can rebuild again with their neighbors.

"We don't have peace in our lives, and we expect that war could happen again anytime," Zaki Nassir says. He lost a nephew in the household across the yard during the first war, another in the year's war and whose home was still damaged by shelling during third world war.

Gaza's story is the story of the Nassirs and their neighbors, as well as the four wars that engulfed them.

According to the U.N., over 4,000 Palestinians were killed in these conflicts since 2008. Many were militants fighting for Hamas, but more than half were civilians. Numerous people have been hurt. Officials from Israel claim that the death toll from all four wars is 106.

The Islamic militants, who reject Israel's right to exist, have fired thousands of rockets across the border during the conflicts, operating from a maze of underground tunnels. Israel is one of many countries that consider Hamas terrorist organization. It has repeatedly attacked the Strip with its overwhelming firepower, which despite its high-tech precision, continues killing civilians.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett compared Israel's occasional offensives to mowing a lawn that isn't mowed. Israel's degrading Hamas and inflicting a cost to its public support does not make any pretense to resolve Gaza's crisis. International efforts are confined to relief and reconstruction. Each war has earned Hamas approval, even when it was struggling.

The wars have caused more than $5 billion of damage to Gaza's infrastructure, including roads, electricity, and water systems. This is roughly twice the annual economic output of the Strip. Nearly 250,000 homes were destroyed or damaged.

Gaza has been ravaged by wars and a crippling blockade, as well as infighting between Palestinian factions. These effects can be hard to quantify.

It's not about losing a building. Omar Shaban, an economist and founder of a think tank in Gaza City, says that you are losing hope that things will improve. "Forty percent of the population was born under siege."

The root of Gaza's current crisis lies in events that occurred long before Hamas took control in 2007. Over half of the people who have flooded Gaza are Palestinians who fled or were expelled from Israel in 1948, when it was formed. Gaza's situation has become much worse due to the ongoing fighting and the recent blockade.

Six years ago, U.N. officials warned Gaza that economic isolation and wars had contributed so much to its "de-development" that it could become uninhabitable by 2020. The 2 million people living in Gaza Strip have been through yet another war. Despite the fact that the economy is struggling, and with unemployment at close to 50%, it ranks among the top 50 countries.

Rami Alazzeh is a U.N. economist and has examined the long-term cost. "And we repeat it every year because, in fact, it gets worse and more severe each year."

Many of their neighbors and the Nassirs, who still have memories of life before Gaza was so devastated, are familiar with this narrative of despair. They resist it, even after a fourth conflict.

Zaki Nassir states, "This is all we have." "We must live."

Five decades ago, Zaki Nassir’s father moved his family from a village to a piece of farmland. Today, the three- and four-story houses along Al-Baali Street, named after Zaki's dad and located at the heart of this tract, are filled with Nassirs.

Nassir, 47 years old, recalls the family's citrus trees and greenhouses as well as their cattle. His brothers were among the thousands of Gazans who crossed daily to reach Israel. "Things were much better back then."

It was not paradise even then. Israeli security concerns have dictated the rights and movements for Palestinians since 1967, when Israel took control of Gaza, West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Critics call it a form of apartheid. This is a problem for Israel, as Gaza is often referred to as a foreign nation, apart from the wider Palestinian conflict.

The Nassir family, 13 daughters and 12 boys born to two women, grew along with Beit Hanoun over the years. Today, there are 57,000 people. The archway that marks the town's entrance is guarded by an Israeli surveillance balloon, which hovers above the border wall.

The Nassir siblings got married and built homes on a lot of their land.

Zaki Nassir worked for the Palestinian Authority until he was struck down by a heart disease and the pandemic. He used to inspect the area's farms and then work part-time at an agricultural college. Jawaher, 46 is due to have their ninth child in September.

After Israel's 2005 disengagement, which saw the withdrawal of troops and settlers from Beit Hanoun, life in Beit Hanoun was severely affected. The vacuum was filled by Hamas, who had already killed hundreds of Israelis with suicide bombings.

An Israeli soldier was kidnapped by militants in 2006. This prompted an Israeli invasion that destroyed roads and flattened groves, as well as destroyed northern Gaza's roads. In a fight for control of Gaza Strip, Hamas won over Fatah after winning Palestinian legislative elections. Egypt and Israel imposed a severe economic blockade.

In the final days of 2008, Israel launched an aggressive military campaign after heavy mortar and rocket fire from militants at the border. Al-Baali Street was the scene of the first war.

Two and a half weeks into the war, Israel declared a short pause to allow residents to gather supplies. Khaldiya Nassir had been preparing the remaining vegetables for her family when Adham, Zaki Nassir’s nephew, announced that he would be taking his donkey cart and horse out to replenish the family’s flour supply.

"We warned him not to be deceived. There is no truce. They lie," Khaldiya Naassir says, sitting at the front of her house, a pale pink structure running the length of the courtyard.

Adham, a cart driver who was prone to long hours and returning with boxes of mangoes for his six children, went anyway.

A woman stopped Adham on his way to her house, asking for help for her daughter. Adham, 38 years old, was carrying the girl to their home when a hail of gunfire hit him in the neck. His cart was destroyed by a rocket moments later.

Adham was evacuated to an Egyptian hospital and died three weeks later.

His wife blames the Israeli special forces. Khaldiya claims that while the Israeli military claimed that he was carrying rockets at the time, he was actually only carrying what they needed.

Khaldiya Naassir, Khaldiya's mother, set aside a lot of the assistance her family received from the Palestinian Authority (the Fatah-led government still in charge of a portion of the Israeli-occupied West Bank). She built her home with it, including kitchen tiles with floral patterns and doors with coffee cups.

Her children made paper hearts for Ramadan celebrations, just days before the conflict broke out. These hearts hang from ceilings that were covered in concrete chunks. U.N. inspectors state that a large portion of the house must be demolished.

She says, "Everything has gone." "We can't afford to be afraid."

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