Not a single house has been built to replace the 12,000 destroyed in last year’s war in Gaza, a Channel 4 news investigation into the scale of destruction in the devastated Strip revealed last night.
The broadcast – anchored by Jon Snow, returning to Gaza exactly one year on from his series of battlefront reports last summer – gave a brief but harrowing insight into life in the region, much of which was totally destroyed in the fighting between the Israeli Defence Force and Hamas.
Drone footage gave viewers a panorama of what the veteran journalist dubbed “a never-changing landscape of demolition…a vast carpet of unrecognisable rubble stretching mile upon mile”.
Over 2,200 people were killed over seven weeks in July and August, 500 of them children – but amid the carnage, the five-minute segment showed fleeting glimmers of hope as Gaza takes its first tentative steps towards reconstruction.
Snow, who attracted publicity for what some saw an outspoken and combative approach to his coverage of the 2014 conflict, described Gaza as “very much under siege” – as its Mayor likened rebuilding efforts to “a drop of rain in a vast desert”.
In a live interview with Snow, Mayor Dr. Majed Abu Ramadan said: “The siege is the most important factor, in spite of all of what we hear about the money – and actually nothing really reached Gaza.
“The siege is like you have a drop of rain in a vast desert and this is the new policy, just giving a drop here and a drop there – that will build nothing.”
“You see all that rubble – you cannot just wipe it and start rebuilding. You need almost an army to redo that – an army destroy it and you need an army of creative people in order to develop it again.”
However, despite claims by an unnamed Norwegian diplomat that “planks of wood of a certain thickness” have been banned under the Israeli government’s ‘dual usage list’, which proscribes items which could be used as weapons – Israeli authorities look set to relax regulations in order to allow the reconstruction of the thousands of destroyed homes.
The only building currently under construction in the war-ravaged Strip is the new St John Eye Hospital – funded by international charity contributions – which Snow toured with Dr Ramadan.
The slowness of progress in rebuilding Gaza was illustrated with cruel irony as the Mayor outlined the extent of destruction to Snow – who last week grilled Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders over Lord Janner’s standing in the Jewish community – atop the new hospital’s roof, and despite the promising development of new health infrastructure, other residents living 19 to a makeshift shelter complained that “not even animals would live like we do”.
Footage showed children and the elderly scavenging in piles of rubble – all that remained of a once thriving residential area – for detritus to sell.
Two young siblings from one family featured still suffer from chronic nightmares and bedwetting, an issue which a Save The Children survey estimates 75% of children in Gaza are affected by.
The report did not feature any meetings between Snow and Israelis – though his coverage of the 2014 conflict did feature him accusing a Netanyahu government spokesman Mark Regev of not having the courage to talk to Hamas directly.
The 67-year-old’s coverage of the Palestinian conflict has come in for criticism as “Israel-bashing” in the past, and a piece published by the Guardian after Channel 4 posted a six-minute video in which he emotively described the plight of children in Gaza online said that he risked “reducing reporting to propaganda”.