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Khan Younis residents return to homes in ruins after Israeli withdrawal


Khan Younes, Gaza
CNN

Palestinians forced from their homes in Khan Younis by the Israeli military offensive began returning in small numbers to the southern Gaza city after the withdrawal of Israeli forces, and many of them arrived to find their former neighborhoods resembling wastelands.

Video footage filmed by a CNN channel shows dozens of returning residents surveying the ruins of the city, some of them standing atop destroyed buildings, searching through piles of rubble that were once homes.

The Israeli army announced on Sunday that it had withdrawn its ground forces from Khan Younis after months of fierce fighting in what it describes as a major Hamas stronghold. Much of the city, once home to hundreds of thousands of people, has been bulldozed and video shows the frames of houses completely demolished along roads strewn with rubble and debris.

It shows returning residents scavenging what few things they can salvage; mattresses, rugs, kitchen containers and wooden blocks. Some children carry sofas and chairs on their backs.

“This is what Gaza has become,” said one man, crossing the rubble on his motorbike.

Other former residents arrived on foot, some on bicycles, others in vans and still others on donkeys.

Perched on a dusty rug, her back resting on a large cushion, Aseel, 12, points to a pile of rubble in front of her, where she says her home once stood.

“It was there, it’s destroyed,” she said.

“Our house is gone. We managed to salvage some furniture (but) we were only able to salvage small things from our house. I wish I could have my clothes back.

Another young Palestinian, Tamar, carries pieces of wood.

“I’ll sell them to earn 10 to 20 shekels, so I never have to reach out and beg people for money,” he explains.

He did not recognize his house when he returned, says Tamar. “If it wasn’t for my neighbors, I wouldn’t have known this was my house. It’s devastation everywhere,” he said.

Tamar carries wood to sell it.

The vast majority of buildings filmed, including homes, offices and mosques, were significantly damaged and many were completely razed.

On Monday, the European Hospital in Gaza said the bodies of 46 Palestinians had been found following the Israeli withdrawal from Khan Younis, most of them “found dead under the rubble of demolished buildings.”

The buildings still standing are covered in soot and riddled with bullets and artillery damage.

Piles of empty shells and the remains of at least one mortar lie on the ground.

“My house was completely destroyed. There were three floors, and now it is one with the ground. I had no memories left. Like everyone else here. They destroyed the area in a barbaric and intentional way,” explains Saad, another former resident.

Mahmoud Ahmad, an elderly man, stands in his destroyed house, reduced to a simple frame. He points out areas that were once rooms, recounting what once was, where, and what he lost.

“It was my washing machine, they burned it, the Israelis. I had a nice little sitting area here, it’s all gone. This was my fridge, look, the door is removed. It was the kitchen. Nothing is left.”

Graffiti was left at a building in Khan Younis after Israel withdrew its ground forces from the southern Gaza city.  April 7, 2024.

Throughout the footage filmed in Khan Younis, Israeli drones can be heard buzzing overhead, as well as occasional gunshots.

Graffiti on the walls of what appears to be the office of a telecommunications company bear Stars of David and anti-Arab slurs written in English.

“Gaza belongs to the Jews,” we read in Arabic on the wall of a demolished building.

Before Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, Khan Younis – Gaza’s second largest city – was home to more than 400,000 people, according to Gaza’s interior ministry.

At the start of the war, the city was a refuge for thousands of Palestinian civilians fleeing Israeli military operations in northern Gaza.

But when Israeli forces launched an assault on Khan Younis in early December, residents were forced to seek refuge further south.

Graffiti left inside a building in Khan Younis, Gaza, April 7, 2024.

More than a million Palestinians are now sheltering in dire humanitarian conditions in the southern city of Rafah, where Israel is also planning an offensive.

Even for those who are now able to return to Khan Younis, there is little comfort to be found.

Among those interviewed in the CNN footage is Abdelkarim, a young Palestinian sitting next to his destroyed school.

He said that while he was sheltering in Rafah, he spent his time reading and writing because he knew he would not be able to return to school.

“How are we going to learn now? ” he asks. “There is no more life. Our childhood is gone. They destroyed us.

News Source : www.cnn.com
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jack colman

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