Gaza town Beit Hanoun sweeps rubble, tries to return to daily life

Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:40am EDT
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By Sylvia Westall

GAZA (Reuters) - It was not the wedding party venue Riyad Fayad had planned for his daughter Heba, but with his Gaza home damaged and neighborhood in rubble, a shelter seemed like the only option.

The United Nations refugee center in a Gaza City school has become a temporary home for thousands of Palestinians displaced by the month-long war with Israel, many of them from Fayad's town of Beit Hanoun in the north.

They sleep on mattresses on classroom floors in the large school house, where lines of washing hang from the windows. Those without a room have made shelters in the playground from wooden desks and blankets.

The 47-year-old father of the bride said he wanted to give his community something to celebrate and picked the school as the venue for Heba's henna party, a pre-wedding ritual in which female guests decorate their hands with the temporary dye.

"Despite the bombing of our houses and the destruction, we are looking forward, to life," Riyad said in the playground while waiting for his daughter to arrive.

Minutes later, children from the camp whooped and sprinted to the school gates. Heba, enveloped in a long black abaya robe and full face veil, arrived for her party in a U.N. car, greeted by the crowd like a movie star.

People from the family's hometown of Beit Hanoun, on the border with Israel, are trying to put their lives back together after a war which has killed nearly 2,000 across the Gaza Strip.

Those who can return to neighborhoods with patchy electricity, sweeping aside the rubble. Others like the Fayads are trying to make refugee centers a home from home, sleeping there and traveling back and forth to the town for belongings.   Continued...

Palestinian gather outside their destroyed houses in Beit Hanoun town, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during the Israeli offensive, in the northern Gaza Strip August 7, 2014.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem