The Palestine Entries: Photos of Beit Lahya after intense shelling

// 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.

This warehouse was hit by at least one missile. A surrounding warehouse in what was once Beit Lahya’s industrial zone is completely demolished.

Destroyed cars (and ambulances too) dot the streets of northern Gaza.

The brown specks and gray craters are a direct consequence of shrapnel from Israeli shelling and white-phosphorous bombs.

This concrete rubble will soon be collected and ground into gravel or cement to be used for future construction projects. Right now, however, it lies all along the dusty streets of Beit Lahya.

Sami Kishawi

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Comments

  1. and all those structures destroyed and the embargo of construction materials so they can’t be rebuild must be making the whole Israel ask to themselves “what should we do so they leave this land to us? we harass them in a daily basis, we bomb them dis-proportionally and they won’t leave…”

  2. FYI: the school was the American International School in Gaza. Ironically, it was fully funded by US money, and the curriculum was American. Teaching staff was also comprised mainly of American, as well as Canadian and Australian teachers. It was bombed on the second or third day of the war by 2 F-16 bombs and wiped to the ground. Israel lied about weapons hidden under the school -surprise- but of course there were no second explosions or any of that. The elderly guard of the school was killed that night. One last thing: the school was an all-time favorite target for the IOF- as you well know, educated Palestinians are a far more dire threat to Israel than masked Palestinians. True fact.

    • Thanks for the clarifications and details! You’re right, as I later found out, this school, along with its students/staff, has been targeted repeatedly.

  3. How does the U.S. continue to claim Cast Lead was an act of defense when it was clearly an attack on civilians and infrastructure? I mean this school was built by Americans, taught an American curriculum, staffed by Americans… what else does the U.S. need? There are so many clear examples other than this school too, but it seems that they don’t want to receive the message. I just can’t understand how they can continue to deny the truth…
    Again, thanks for risking so much to get us the vital information. It’s not safe to be that close to the border, esp. with a camera.

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