Gaza damage more than even the ‘fixer’ can fix

January 30, 2009

I first met Raed al-Athamna when he was driving a journalist friend of mine around Gaza in his yellow, stretch-Mercedes taxi during the tense and violent days after Gaza militants captured Gilad Shalit, a young Israeli soldier, in the summer of 2006.

Raed seemed to be a good ‘fixer’ – attentive, sensible and with far-from-perfect but perfectly understandable English.

A few months later, I interviewed him in the rubble of Beit Hanoun – after Israeli tank shells slammed in to a relative’s home killing 18 members of his extended family early one morning as most were still sleeping.

Israel said a technical mishap caused the shells to stray from their intended targets and in to the residential neighbourhood where the Athamnas lived.

Perhaps because his immediate family had escaped the tragedy in their nearby home, and perhaps because loss is so intimately entwined in the lives of Gazans, Raed seemed sanguine and calm in the interview and still confident that peace between Israelis and Palestinians was possible.

Raed’s business hit a lean patch soon after that interview – when many of the foreign journalists he worked with stopped making the trip in to Gaza as the menace of kidnapping and the unpredictability of the factional fighting between Fatah and Hamas effectively put the Strip off limits.

Despite the dip in business Raed decided it was time to leave Beit Hanoun – whose location near the Israeli border in the northeast corner of Gaza made it a favourite for rocket launchers and thus a regular scene of clashes and airstrikes – so he took his life’s savings, some $70,000, and got to work on a new home.

In the village of Abed Rabbo – a few kilometres south of Beit Hanoun on a plot next to his father’s house – Raed thought he had found refuge from the constant violence.

But he was wrong.

When I interviewed Raed earlier this week next to more rubble, this time the rubble of his own home, he was anything but sanguine, calm and confident that peace would come soon.

He was furious, distraught and very, very scared of what the future held for him and his family.

With his savings spent on a house in rubble, and little hope of seeing it rebuilt soon, and with his taxi lying mangled in a nearby bush it was not hard to understand the rage and confusion.

He said he has already given up on his children’s education.

“How to send them to school? How? My daughter was the first in her class and first for all of north Gaza. But I have told her forget it – she cannot be a doctor now.”

He reached in to his pocket and pulled out a single key on a simple key-ring.

“This is all what we have now, this is all I can give her – our house over there,” he said, waving the key angrily and pointing east in to Israel, towards another home his family had to leave more than 60 years ago, as conflict erupted when the state of Israel was created in 1948.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jerry Lampen


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Peace is coming, homes and properties can be replaced, God will always be with all of you, hang in there do not give up.

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

Should the Jewish population of Israel so overwhelmingly support their government’s brutality in Gaza as they did in Lebanon, puts them in the same league as the World’s worse people. At this point to live within the Palestian society would be the more acceptable of the two.

Posted by george pravda | Report as abusive

I am speechless, lost for words after watching the destruction in Gaza. I mean where is the humanity gone, where are the true Christians, Jews, Muslims and peace loving people?!

Surely dead fighting in the world wars to give the world a better future, life with hope n dignity. Surely NOT this I mean what is difference betwen Nazis and current Israili Regime?? They are both murderers of innocent toddlers, children, fathers, mothers and NOT even sparing the UN buildings housing innocent children. Where are the world leaders who promote, equality, freedom and most of becons of democracy. So isnt Hamas democraticly elected by the people of Gaza??? Yes they are so where does your democracy go now to hell!

Clear double standard with everything A-Z!!!!!

When the British had problems with IRA we did not see fighter jets pounding evry inch of irland??? NO

SHAME ON JEWS ISRAILIS, WEST , MOST OF ALL OVER BILLION MUSLIMS WITH HANDS, to help the opressed for the last 60 years!!!

Posted by hUSSAIN | Report as abusive

the only technical mishap that’s happened is the fact that izrael was even created

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

Why so pro=palestinian? Israel was not targeting the Palestinians! They were going after the Hamas.
Hamas is being supported by Iran. Israel doesnt teach its 3 years old children hatred of Arabs. The Palestinian people have cartoons and children programs with anti-Israel propoganda. So how are we to get the Palestinians to halt violence. Cooler heads will prevail, settlements on the west bank should be debated a bit,are they necessary? But rockets should not be flying into Israel from Gaza.

Posted by Peter Salerno | Report as abusive

Booo-hoo-hoo, lets all cry together for the misery of the poor Palestinians, they want to destroy Israel, they elect a dictatorial government that kills any subject with a difference of opinion to theirs. A so called government that attacks Israel while hiding among the civilian population and in schools and then they cry because the people they have been attacking and continue to attack every day fights back. The law of nature is that if you pull the tail of a lion you have good chances of being eaten. And finally if you play with fire you get burnt.

You want to leave in peace and in homes that are not a pile of ruble, then elect a moderate government willing to work for peace and with the intelligence to recognize when it’s time to deal and let the past violence end. Upsss sorry, that requires intelligence something that your people seriously lack. Well just keep on sending rockets that will get you your homes back right?

Posted by L | Report as abusive

This is just a test

Posted by Reuters Staff | Report as abusive