Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip has reduced entire neighborhoods to dust. The resumption of fighting and intensified airstrikes on southern Gaza after a week-long pause could mean that even more of the territory could meet the same fate.
But the war, however long it continues, is only the beginning. Parts of a postwar Gaza could long be dangerous to inhabit, let alone rebuild.
Riddled with hundreds if not thousands of unexploded ordnance, ranging from makeshift rockets built by Hamas to high-tech munitions provided to Israel by the United States, “the contamination will be unbelievable, like something from World War II,” said Charles Birch, an explosives clearance expert for the U.N. Mine Action Service (UNMAS) who was in Gaza at the height of the bombing campaign.
Birch estimated it would cost tens of millions of dollars and take many years to make the entire area safe.
An estimated 80 percent of Gazans have been displaced by the war, alongside the three percent of people who lived in the strip who have been killed or injured. The majority of casualties were women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Reversing that displacement would be a mammoth task. Buildings have been leveled or made structurally unsound. Infrastructure, including for water and sewage, has been destroyed. Many weapons that analysts say have been used in Gaza, including the controversial incendiary white phosphorus, can seep into the water supply.
Israel says it aims to destroy Hamas, and the question of who will have the authority or resources to rebuild the economically devastated enclave remains unanswered.
Unexploded ordnance might be the most pervasive threat. Even during times of relative peace in Gaza, leftover bombs from previous rounds of fighting regularly kill and maim. The problem is now exponentially worse, and the danger will grow as explosives degrade and get more unstable. [Continue reading…]