// Entry #15
A cloudless blue sky engulfed the city and a cool sea breeze kept me awake during the long car ride to the northernmost parts of the Gaza Strip. I was headed to Beit Lahya near the coast to gather photographic evidence of the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead. Beit Lahya and its surrounding areas were the hardest hit regions in Gaza, targeted first during the aerial invasion and subsequently leveled to the ground during the land offensive.
Together with an assortment of family members, we began our drive through the outskirts of town. Most of the land was flat and covered with sand, grass, and short rows of domesticated crops. The area appeared almost entirely depopulated and one of the few visible signs of civilization was a row of concrete pillars jutting upwards from the earth.
The driver informed us that the pillars once held the roof of a prestigious school, the American International School in Gaza, funded by the United States. Prior to the invasion, the school attracted the brightest students in the Gaza Strip, but it was hit so often during Israel’s air and ground assault that the entire structure aside from the row of pillars was wiped to the ground. Not a single wall remained standing.
Since then, the rubble has been cleared away and crushed into gravel and cement in nearby factories. All that is left is a seemingly misplaced row of concrete pillars and the basement foundation.
The deeper we traveled into Beit Lahya, the more often our driver repeated this story. Entire acres of land were converted into phosphorus-poisoned farmland after the Israeli military razed buildings and houses to the ground. The structures that remained standing show very visible signs of the missile barrages and tank shelling their occupants were forced to endure.
The rebuilding phase in Beit Lahya has already begun but to a very limited degree. The concrete manufactured from the grinding of rubble is not enough to rebuild the north of Gaza and Israel continues to prohibit construction material from crossing into the territory. Families who lost their homes have yet to be compensated and much of the available farmland is covered with metal debris. The town’s residents have thus been forced to make do with whatever resources were salvaged during the invasion.
Here are some photographs of Beit Lahya as it currently stands.