Counting the cost of Israel's war on Gaza, one year on
On 10 May 2021, Israel launched a large-scale military attack on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian factions fired a barrage of rockets toward Israeli towns in response to Israeli provocations against worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the forced eviction of residents in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.
Now, one year on, both sides, the armed Palestinian factions led by Hamas, and the Israeli army, still claim victory in the war, the fiercest since 2014.
Over 11-days, Israeli warplanes launched hundreds of airstrikes on homes and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip targeting strategic Hamas sites. Palestinian factions, meanwhile, launched advanced homemade missiles at Israeli cities.
More than 260 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, were killed by Israel, while 14 Israelis were killed by Palestinian missiles.
"Between 2008 and 2021, Israel has launched four large scale military campaigns against Gaza, inflicting serious damage that requires decades to rebuild, before often just being bombed again"
The damage to Palestinian livelihoods and vital infrastructure was severe. Israeli warplanes completely destroyed about 1,500 housing units, while 880 units were partially destroyed and became uninhabitable.
A further 56,000 were damaged, according to Naji Sarhan, the undersecretary of the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Gaza.
Between 2008 and 2021, Israel has launched four large scale military campaigns against the coastal enclave, inflicting serious damage that requires decades to rebuild, before often just being bombed again.
"The Gaza Strip needs about one billion US dollars to rebuild the damage left by consecutive Israeli wars, and two billion dollars to revive it again and bring it back to life,” Sarhan, the undersecretary of the ministry, told The New Arab.
He explained that last year's war cost the Gazan economy over $479 million, pointing out that damaged infrastructure from previous rounds of fighting has yet to be reconstructed.
Earlier this year, the Hamas-run ministry in Gaza began the reconstruction process by disbursing funds via the United Nations to rebuild completely damaged or destroyed homes.
Meanwhile, Egypt is working to build three residential cities, including nearly 4,000 apartments, for which it has announced financing at a value of $500 million.
However, for political and financial reasons the reconstruction process is still moving very slowly, Sarhan said.
“Gazans are still suffering from the consequences of the war and they do not have any hope of restoring their normal lives soon.”
Mohammed al-Haddad, 70, a father of eight, was one of those who lost his apartment in a four-storey residential building during the 2021 war. For several months, he and his 35-member family became homeless.
What made matters worse was that his small factory was also destroyed, meaning he and his seven sons and grandsons lost their only source of income. So far, he has not received the minimum amount of the supposed budget to start his own reconstruction process.
“The war means that our lives will come to a complete halt, especially after we lose the most important necessities for a dignified life in Gaza. None of the civilians benefited from those military tensions. We are just victims,” he said.
Despite the huge economic and human costs of the war, Palestinian factions consider themselves victors, having achieved their political and military aims.
"None of the civilians benefited from those military tensions. We are just victims"
"One of the most important factors of the resistance's victory politically is that it was able to break an undeclared decision of the US administration not to pay attention to the issues of the region," said political analyst Hossam Al-Dajani.
"President Joe Biden's indifference has changed and he started communicating directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, realising it was an American interest to prevent the escalation of confrontations,” he added.
"At the regional level, Hamas has achieved an unparalleled victory by restoring its relations with the countries of the region,” Al-Dajani said, particularly Egypt, noting that Egyptian and Qatari funding has contributed greatly to the reconstruction of Gaza.
In military terms, after the end of the war, Palestinian factions announced that they had fired 4,000 locally-made missiles at Israeli towns, while still possessing 10,000 others.
Among those missiles was the Ayyash 250 missile, which was fired at Israeli cities 250 km away from the besieged Gaza Strip.
Facing a militarily and technologically superior enemy, observers say Hamas used an element of surprise against Israel while proving themselves the defenders of Jerusalem.
“We had a clear decision, to occupy the Israeli arena, to suspend all aspects of life, and to force the Israelis to stay in shelters, so we targeted occupied Jerusalem first and then the rest of the Israeli cities. Israelis had to know perfectly well that they are not safe from our missile strikes," an official source in the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, who preferred to be unnamed, told The New Arab.
In addition to firing an unexpectedly large number of rockets and imposing a military cost on Israeli policies in Jerusalem, some analysts believe that the war hastened the end of the Netanyahu era in Israeli politics.
"It may be arbitrary to say that the Gaza war alone turned the page on Netanyahu and his political era, but it is certainly considered a fundamental pillar in this matter, especially after his inability to confront the Palestinian resistance,” Adnan Abu Amer, a Gaza-based political expert told The New Arab.
"One year on, both sides, the armed Palestinian factions led by Hamas, and the Israeli army, still claim victory in the war"
"What contributed to Netanyahu's actual end is that the Israelis have come to believe that he fought the war with the Palestinian resistance in order to improve his internal position among right-wing circles,” he said.
Already struggling in opinion polls, Netanyahu hoped to increase his popularity through the war, but his aspirations never came to fruition. After the war on Gaza, Israel created a government of change that opposed Netanyahu.
For their part, Israeli officials also claimed victory in the conflict, stating that they had obliterated a miles-long underground tunnel network dubbed the 'Gaza metro'.
The human and economic cost to Gaza was greater than in Israel, as it always is, and Tel Aviv will point to victories for the Iron Dome system, which minimised damage from rocket fire, which has subsequently decreased since the conflict.
In reality, however, it is only a matter of time before the next conflict, as the structural conditions remain the same.
Gaza is still under a crippling blockade, settlements are still expanding in East Jerusalem, and violations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound could escalate into wider tensions at any moment.
Recent events such as the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, also threaten to inflame confrontations in Gaza, with the potential for widespread destruction in the besieged enclave and an inevitable political stalemate once again.
Sally Ibrahim is The New Arab's correspondent from Gaza.