Sat 22-June-2024

In the ruins: How Palestinians use remnants of Israeli artillery for survival

Saturday 8-June-2024


Remnants of unexploded Israeli ammunition are scattered throughout most of the areas of the Gaza Strip, the detritus left behind in the wake of Israeli military operations in the Palestinian cities in the narrow coastal enclave. Palestinians, who are used to making hope out of every despair, drew inspiration from the adversity of their circumstances to make use of the deadly materials.

In Khan Yunis City, Ahmed Tayser Miqdad, 28, lives in a tent that he constructed out of artillery shells and unexploded missiles. “I came up with the idea of exploiting the remnants from the occupation army which hit my house to erect tent for me and my family,” he says. “I was displaced four times after my house was destroyed by the Israeli airstrikes in Khan Yunis.”

“I don’t have money to buy wood, pipes and equipment so it really helped me save money,” Ahmed explains. While the project of collecting projectiles is risky, Ahmed says that the danger is less important to him than sheltering his family, which is his primary concern. According to Ahmed, most of the ammunition he has found is printed with “made in USA.”

“Home is sweet home, no place is like your home,” Ahmed says. “I only feel relief in my neighborhood, even if we’re living in a tent where life is cruel and difficult.”

The ongoing Israeli atrocity has forcibly displaced over 80 percent of the population across the tiny enclave. The majority of the families have been forced to move multiple times in search of safety, while approximately 62 percent of all homes in Gaza has been damaged or destroyed, equivalent to 290,820 housing units. More than a million people are without homes, according to a report by the World Bank. The damages have been unprecedented and still mounting as the genocidal war continues to rage. Several areas of Gaza have been invaded multiple times, leaving behind stockpiles of military remnants: bullets, empty metal and wooden boxes, scavenged wire fuses, canned food and others. People collect these remains to eke out a living amid the rising poverty and the loss of jobs and work.

Mohammed Alabadlah was the owner of a housewares store in Gaza. His store has been destroyed by the Israeli occupation army and left him unemployed, which led him to create a new path of livelihood out of the unexploded ammunition. “I sell the ammunition boxes left behind by the Israeli occupation forces after their withdrawal,” Alabadlah says. “Some people use them as a saving box for their important papers. Others use these boxes as lumber, especially amid the cooking gas shortage. Families now only cook and bake on fire, so wood and paper are important to everyone.”

Selling the boxes helps Alabadlah make a living for his family. He says that some have scavenged wire fuses used by the Israeli occupation to detonate explosives in homes. Repurposed, the wires are often used as clotheslines to hang laundry.

“We sometimes find chocolates, bread, juice, left behind after withdrawal of the Israeli tanks, that are scarce in Gaza,” Alabadlah says. “Some people eat them and others sell them.”

Pehr Lodhammar, the former United Nationals Mine Action Service Chief for Iraq, stated in April that Israel’s carnage in Gaza has created 37m tons of debris, laced through with an estimated 10% of undetonated weaponry, which failed to explode upon firing. The debris could take more than a decade to remove. “Some 7,500 tons of unexploded ordinance could be ‘scattered’ throughout Gaza which could take up to 14 years to clear,” Lodhammar said. “The number of Israeli bombs dropped on the 25-mile-long Strip home to the besieged population of 2.3 million surpasses that of World War II.”

The spent tear gas canisters, empty live ammunition and tank shells used as decorative wares and sculptures are no mere oddities for Palestinians, who have commonly used foraged artillery as home décor and house furniture. In the past, people have used the remnants left over by Israel’s military in innovative ways, from gardening to art.

In the West Bank, where Israeli occupation troops fire tear gas canisters at weekly peaceful demonstrations against Israeli settlements and suppression, Palestinians collect the spent tear gas canisters and place flowers into them like vases, while in Gaza, Palestinians used to decorate Israeli tank shells, beautifying them to hold flowers.

-Wafa Aludaini is a Gaza-based journalist. She contributed this article to the Palestinian Information Center.

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