Four wars have claimed the lives of residents in Gaza

Tonight, the electricity went out in Jawaher Nassir and Zaki's neighborhood. The only way to survive is from the rubble of their sitting room, which was blown into pieces by Israeli missiles. Twilight and the fire of a neighbor are sufficient.

Four wars have claimed the lives of residents in Gaza

This is Al-Baali, a narrow street that runs just over a half mile from the border between northern Gaza and Israel. The cinderblock houses press against one another before opening up to a small courtyard beneath the Nassirs.

The Nassirs sipped coffee near a window until the third war between Israel and Hamas militants. Children were playing volleyball with a rope instead of a net. The couple also watched as their relatives picked fruit from the yard's olive and fig trees.

They now spend their days looking at the debris of the May 14 airstrike with broken plastic chairs, while they wait for building inspectors. The gaping holes in the surrounding homes serve as windows into the upheaval in their community.

Children play video games on top of a slab made of concrete in the skeleton of a building. Another shows a man standing beside a bed of debris and looking up at the ceiling fan that hangs overhead like a dead flower. The air is suffused with the smell of plaster dust and pulverized cement.

Every afternoon demolition workers arrive to hammer away at the stage so that the Nassirs can rebuild again with their neighbors.

"We don't have peace in our lives, and we expect that war could happen again anytime," Zaki Nassir says. He lost a nephew in the first war, another in the second war, and whose house is still scarred from shelling in the third.

Gaza's story is the story of the Nassirs and their neighbors, as well as the four wars that engulfed them.

According to the U.N., over 4,000 Palestinians were killed in these conflicts since 2008. Many were militants fighting for Hamas, but more than half were civilians. Numerous people have been hurt. Officials from Israel claim that the death toll from all four wars is 106.

The Islamic militants, who reject Israel's right to exist, have fired thousands of rockets across the border during the conflicts, operating from a maze of underground tunnels. Israel is one of many countries that consider Hamas terrorist organization. It has repeatedly attacked the Strip with its overwhelming firepower, which despite its high-tech precision, continues killing civilians.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett compared Israel's occasional offensives to mowing a lawn that isn't mowed. Israel's degrading Hamas and inflicting a cost to its public support does not make any pretense to resolve Gaza's crisis. International efforts are confined to relief and reconstruction. Each war has earned Hamas approval, even when it was struggling.

The wars have caused more than $5 billion of damage to Gaza's infrastructure, including roads, electricity, and water systems. This is roughly twice the annual economic output of the Strip. Nearly 250,000 homes were destroyed or damaged.

Gaza has been ravaged by wars and a crippling blockade, as well as infighting between Palestinian factions. These effects can be hard to quantify.

It's not about losing a building. Omar Shaban, an economist and founder of a think tank in Gaza City, says that you are losing hope that things will improve. "Forty percent of the population was born under siege."

The root of Gaza's current crisis lies in events that occurred long before Hamas took control in 2007. Over half of the people who have flooded Gaza are Palestinians who fled or were expelled from Israel in 1948, when it was formed. Gaza's situation has become much worse due to the ongoing fighting and the recent blockade.

Six years ago, U.N. officials warned Gaza that economic isolation and wars had contributed so much to its "de-development" that it could become uninhabitable by 2020. The 2 million people living in Gaza Strip have been through yet another war. Despite the fact that the economy is struggling, and with unemployment at close to 50%, it ranks among the top 50 countries.

Rami Alazzeh is a U.N. economist and has examined the long-term cost. "And we repeat it every year because, in fact, it gets worse and more severe each year."

Many of their neighbors and the Nassirs, who still have memories of life before Gaza was so devastated, are familiar with this narrative of despair. They resist it, even after a fourth conflict.

Zaki Nassir states, "This is all we have." "We must live."

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