Gaza: Waiting to rebuild


Two years after the 2014 war, thousands of families are

still in limbo, waiting for funds to rebuild their homes.

Text: Belal Aldabbour

Images: Belal Aldabbour and Ziyad Hararah

An @AJLabs production

            ore than 100,000 homes in Gaza were damaged or destroyed in the 2014 war, along with dozens of schools, hospitals, businesses and places of worship. Two years later, the besieged coastal enclave is still in ruins, with thousands of families waiting to receive reconstruction funds. Of 18,000 homes that were totally destroyed in the conflict, just 3,000 have been rendered habitable again, and an estimated 75,000 people remain displaced, according to the United Nations.


2014 Gaza war by the numbers


homes damaged or destroyed



Palestinians killed


Palestinian children killed


Israeli soldiers killed


Israeli civilians killed


Israeli child killed

Ziyad Hararah

Source: UN

Here, Al Jazeera examines why it is taking so long to rebuild Gaza, by following the case of one man who has been navigating the territory’s reconstruction mechanism. Over the past two years, he has rebuilt one floor of his three-storey home – and this is fast progress compared with many Palestinians in Gaza.

July 20, 2014

Home in Shujayea is destroyed

Teacher Ziyad Hararah’s home in Shujayea is hit by Israeli bombs. Having evacuated the house a week earlier amid intense shelling, his family is unharmed, but the house collapses, as the whole neighbourhood is demolished beyond recognition.

July 22, 2014

Israel announces ceasefire

Israel announces a temporary ceasefire. Hararah goes back to check on his home, where smoke is still rising from under the fallen stones.


Late July 2014

Ministry of Public Works examines the home

During another ceasefire, the neighbourhood council, which liaises with the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works, comes to examine the site of the wreckage of Hararah’s home. The council files a preliminary damage report.


The Ministry of Public Works comes to examine the home and determine the level of damages. It requires proof of property from the owner, in the form of any official paper, such as an electricity bill, with his name and address. Because the area is beyond recognition, the ministry depends on satellite images to determine the location of each house. Delegates from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) accompany the ministry to the site to confirm the information.

Mid-October 2014

Ministry of Public Works assesses damage

Hararah is given a UN subsidy of six months’ rent, totaling $1,200, to help him to pay for accommodation while his home is uninhabitable. He is later given an additional rent subsidy.


January 2015

Receives UN subsidy of $1,200

Staff with the Ministry of Public Works make another visit to reassess the state of Hararah’s home. They again compare the site on the ground with existing satellite images and GPS data.

February 2015

Ministry of Public Works reassesses home

The UNDP begins the process of removing rubble from the wreckage of Hararah’s home. Local contractors hired by the UNDP bring in excavators and dump trucks to remove the slabs of fallen concrete and metal. Any pieces of usable furniture are extracted from the ruins. It takes two days to clear the site of Hararah’s home.


March 2015

UNDP begins removing rubble

The process of clearing the rubble is completed, and Hararah receives a tent from the Ministry of Public Works to erect on his land until reconstruction begins.  In the tent, Hararah’s family stores the furniture they extracted from the rubble. The tent also serves to mark this spot as their territory for rebuilding. During this time, Hararah’s 10 family members live in a rented apartment in Gaza City.

April 2015

Receives tent from Ministry of Public Works

The Ministry of Public Works asks Gaza residents to begin preparing their paperwork, including diagrams of their homes, in order to obtain municipal approvals so that they can receive reconstruction funds whenever the money becomes available. The municipality requires extensive paperwork, including proof of land ownership and the absence of inheritance issues or land disputes, to avoid future conflicts over new construction. This is difficult for many people, who lost almost everything they owned in the war. New copies of key documents can be obtained from the city archives, but this takes additional time and money. Hararah hires a lawyer to help to speed up the process, at a cost of $100.

May 2015

Prepares home ownership paperwork

After obtaining all of the necessary paperwork, Hararah takes it to the municipal office and pays the required fee of 11,000 shekels ($2,800) for a building permit. In return, he receives a map of the neighbourhood and streets, illustrating the area where he can rebuild.

June 2015

Pays $2,800 for building permit

In accordance with local regulations, a private engineering firm comes and scans the area where Hararah is planning to rebuild. This is standard procedure before any new construction can be undertaken. Schematics of Hararah’s intended house are then run by a syndicate of engineers for review, a process that takes one to two weeks.


Late June 2015

Building permit assessed by engineers

The municipality receives the maps of Hararah’s proposed new house and makes a final field check before officially providing a construction permit. The process of obtaining this permit has taken Hararah two months and cost him $3,500 – expenses that are not covered by the internationally provided reconstruction funds. Now, Hararah must wait to receive the funds that will allow him to begin building his new house.


Mid-July 2015

Obtains permit for new house construction

Early August 2015

Receives grant from international donors

The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism


Hararah receives a call from the Ministry of Public Works, asking him to sign paperwork stating that he will receive a Qatari grant for reconstruction. At this point, his name is registered in the GRM system, a UN-established mechanism that oversees the reconstruction process in Gaza. He is now entitled to receive the amount of cement determined earlier by the screening crews and engineers. This will allow him to build the ground floor of his new home. No family can build past the ground floor until everyone in Gaza has had a chance to build the ground floor. Some families get around this by building a smaller ground floor, and using the remaining allotted cement to build higher floors - which is allowed as long as they do not exceed the designated amount of cement.

August 19, 2015

Registers with the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism

August 20, 2015

Begins building the foundation

Hararah begins rebuilding the ground floor of what was once a three-storey home. He hires a reconstruction company after paying a portion of the costs and promising to repay the rest after receiving the promised grant funds.


Late September 2015

Completes the construction of the foundation

Hararah finishes construction on the foundation of the ground floor of his home, and informs the municipality of his progress.


Municipal officials make a site visit to check that Hararah’s progress report is accurate. Once this is confirmed, Hararah applies for a permit for the second phase of construction, which involves building the ceiling.


Early October 2015

Progress inspected by municipal officials

The municipality issues a permit for Hararah’s second phase of construction. Hararah takes it to the Ministry of Public Works, which issues him a payment for the first phase and allows him to begin the second phase.


Mid-October 2015

November 2015

Receives permit from Ministry of Public Works

Completes construction of pillars and ceiling

Hararah finishes building the pillars and ceiling of the ground floor of his home, informs the municipality of his progress, and receives approval for the third phase of construction, which is interior finishing, such as plaster and tiles. He also receives payment for the second phase.

January 10, 2016

Moves into the ground floor of his new home

A year and a half after his house was demolished, Hararah finishes the interior of the ground floor, and officially moves into his new home. He receives payment for the third phase of construction.


Hararah receives a fourth and final reconstruction payment after the Ministry of Public Works makes a site visit to ensure that everything is in order on the ground floor of his new home. The whole process has cost Hararah more than $61,000; reconstruction funding has provided him with several thousand dollars less than that ($56,000). He was allotted 130 tonnes of cement and has used all of it.


Late January 2016

Receives final reconstruction payment

July 2016

Two years on and Harara's home is still not complete

Cement vendors


Hararah is carrying thousands of dollars in debt for expenses not covered by the reconstruction mechanism. No money is allotted for furniture, and the house is half-empty. One of the carpets he uses was pulled out from under the rubble of his old home. Hararah and his married son, who each lived on separate floors in their old home, are now cramped into the single floor that they’ve been able to rebuild. They do not have the means to build anything further on their own, so now they must wait to receive the second round of reconstruction funds – money that is not expected to arrive for years to come.


Text: Belal Aldabbour

Images: Belal Aldabbour and Ziyad Hararah

An @AJLabs production