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Displaced people find apocalyptic landscape upon returning to Khan Yunis

Khan Yunis, Palestinian Territories. Safa Qandil is a displaced person who returned to her home in Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza, on Monday and found that nothing remained of her house, after months of fierce fighting between the Israeli army and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

After the withdrawal of the Israeli army on Sunday, thousands of displaced Gazans returned and found the apocalyptic landscape of a devastated city. Even, most of the time, they discovered that their home is no longer there.

“We hoped to find our house or its remains and recover something to cover ourselves,” explains Qandil, 46.

“But we didn’t find the house,” he adds.

And that wasn’t the worst. His son and his pregnant wife were killed by the Israeli army. “My tragedy is great,” he emphasizes, adding that the Israelis also killed his daughter-in-law’s “father, brother, sister, aunt and the rest of the family in an atrocious crime.”

“In every house there is a martyr (someone dead), or a wounded person. Words are not enough to describe the magnitude of the devastation and suffering we experienced,” he says.

Such is the destruction of the city that many residents returning from Rafah, where more than 1.5 million Gazans took refuge, have difficulty finding their way.

Camping on rubble

“We don’t recognize the places,” says Salim Sharab.

Others explain that the smell of death hangs in the air, as people dig up bodies from the rubble.

The city’s civil defense requested hydraulic equipment from the UN on Monday to reach the bodies, most of which, according to them, are badly decomposed.

The fighting and bombing devastated entire swaths of this city where almost 400,000 people lived.

“My house was completely destroyed and only rubble remains. My heart is consumed by pain. In every corner of my house there were memories… the magnitude of the devastation is indescribable,” describes Aisha Al Hoor.

Mohamed Dahalan was one of the lucky few. His apartment was left intact although his neighbors lost walls and windows. But the Israeli army left “explosive materials inside and we don’t know how to handle them,” he explains.

“There is nothing left,” says 29-year-old Muhamad Abu Diab. “I will search through the rubble until I find clothes to wear and I will live next to the remains of my house even if it is in a tent. We are exhausted,” he says.

The Gaza war was triggered after the October 7 attack by Hamas militants against Israel, which killed 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive cost the lives of at least 33,207 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.

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– 2024-04-13 09:28:57

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