Thursday, 12 February 2009


You know, this place could be alright. The sun is shining. The view over to the blue sea is fine. The donkey carts are quaint. The streets are packed with school kids (mainly girls). There is less litter than I remember though maybe that's because there aren't many things that can end up as litter as much as through organised collection. Fruit and veg seems plentiful judging from the stalls.

Pity about the bombed buildings. You come across them everywhere. Have just been looking at the ruins of the American International School, utterly destroyed in a targeted operation: "They want to keep Palestinians uneducated," we were told. "There were no militants here." A group of 16 year old girls from another local school join us to take pictures of the ruins, as fascinated by the destruction as ourselves.

A family are still living in a first floor room that can be reached only across slanting concrete; the building all around them has been reduced to rubble. In the surrounding area nothing stands. Devastation everywhere.

The UN Relief and Works Agency is core to the provision of basic supplies. I have just left a supply area packed with people using ration cards to collect supplies - just staples, flour, rice, milk powder, a bit of meat.

In what used to be the commercial and industrial zone we are shown scores of destroyed factories. Bombing a biscuit factory wasn't enough for the Israelis. Once they had finished the troops drove over it with bulldozers to finish the job. "We have lost millions," says the company chairman, a smartly dressed businessman. "We employed guards to keep out any militants, but the Israelis just wanted to destroy the economic infrastructure. We used to export to Israel. Any buildings left standing were burnt so we could not use them."

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