By Andrew Hammond
HAY AL-SALAM, Gaza Strip, Feb 5 (Reuters) – Thousands of Palestinians are living in tented camps after Israel’s three-week assault on the Gaza Strip, hoping for a swift end to Israel’s blockade so they can rebuild their homes.
Aid workers said on Thursday at least 16,000 people have found temporary accommodation in 10 camps set up in districts laid to waste in a war that local medical officials said left around 1,300 Palestinians dead and more than 5,000 wounded.
But conditions are cramped, with several thousands of tents held up at border crossings from Israel into the Gaza Strip.
Israel has limited supplies into the coastal enclave since Hamas Islamists took control in fighting with the Fatah group of U.S.-backed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
“I worked for 28 years as a teacher in the United Arab Emirates and I put it all into this house,” said Yousef Abu Eida, pointing to a collapsed concrete mass behind the tents in the Hay al-Salam district of Jabalya refugee camp.
“I lost everything.”
Aid agencies have handed out blankets for the cold nights, when the camp residents gather around log fires. So far, latrines have only been installed in some of them.
But with no formal ceasefire in place between Israel and Hamas, they say they don’t feel safe. The Israeli border is visible only a short distance away.
“We can’t sleep at night. We’re afraid the tanks will come back. They (Israelis) say they want this area as a ‘safe zone’. People are frightened,” said Bashir Khidr, who shares a tent with 20 other people.
As he talks, children navigate the concrete slabs and twisted iron and steel of collapsed homes.
Building materials are banned because Israel says they could be used for making rockets fired into its south.
“We ask European and Arab countries to open the crossings to allow building materials in and humanitarian needs to give shelter to thousands,” said Diab Dhumeida, a charity volunteer.
He said 450 families lost homes in the Salam district and another 340 tents are needed to give each a space of their own.
Aid pledged by countries around the world has only trickled in pending a deal between Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, which borders Gaza on the south.
Khalil Abufoul, head of disaster management unit at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, said that 800 to 1,000 trucks used to enter the territory daily before the 2007 Israeli blockade.
“During the war it fell to 50 to 60 trucks a day — now it’s about 100 to 120 for different organisations and companies,” Abufoul said. “For me this is not humanitarian access, you need more flow than before but the flow is very little.”
(Editing by Samia Nakhoul)