As they turn from a year that could barely have brought more bitter hardship after 12 weeks of a pulverising Israeli assault, people in Gaza have little hope that 2024 will bring much relief.
In Rafah on Gaza’s border with Egypt, which has become the biggest focal point for Palestinians fleeing other parts of the enclave, people on Sunday were more preoccupied with trying to find shelter, food and water than by the new year.
“In 2024 I wish to go back to the wreckage of my home, pitch a tent and live there,” said Abu Abdullah al-Agha, a middle aged Palestinian man whose house in Khan Younis was destroyed and who lost a young niece and nephew in an Israeli air strike.
“I wish for our children to live in peace and security, to go back to school, back to university, for workers to go back to work and find a source of income,” he added.
Israel launched its war in Gaza on Oct. 7 after Palestinian Hamas fighters rampaged across the border, killing more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 240 hostages.
The Israeli bombardment has pushed nearly all Gazans from their homes, killed 21,800 people according to health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave, and left survivors facing hunger, disease and destitution.
Any hope of a political settlement to the conflict and Palestinians’ 75-year quest for self-determination appear further away than ever.
“Since October we’ve been struggling in tents in the streets, after our homes were demolished,” said Suzan Khader, weeping, adding that she wished the new year would bring an end to the war.
“Our whole lives are now on the streets, we eat in the streets, we live on the streets, we die on the streets, and even our children are on the streets and we’re all displaced. So many struggles in 2023,” she added.
People crowd around makeshift tents in Rafah that have sprung up on streets and pavements, in empty lots and fields. U.N.-run schools designated as shelters early in the conflict were rapidly filled with people whose homes were destroyed.
In their tents made with crude plastic sheeting, where people have only the minimum of belongings such as blankets and cooking utensils, people look back with fond sadness on their abandoned homes and lives.
“I hope in 2024 that everything is fixed and for life to go back to normal,” said Muna al-Sawaf, 12, from Gaza City, playing with a kitten in the rubble. “I want life to go back to normal, get dressed, run errands again, our homes to be rebuilt.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)