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Gaza: land of the trapped

Last summer's 50-day bombardment left thousands dead and many more maimed and homeless. Kevin Doyle visits the scarred, war-weary territory and finds a people living in constant fear, but praying for salvation too.

By Kevin Doyle

Published 20/06/2015

Destruction: Salaam Abu Jame peers out from his home, a casualty of the conflict in Gaza, in the frontline village of Zanna. Photo: Mark Condren
Destruction: Salaam Abu Jame peers out from his home, a casualty of the conflict in Gaza, in the frontline village of Zanna. Photo: Mark Condren

The sunflowers are becoming ripe. Big, bright and yellow.

I expect them to be the last bit of colour we see as the motorway comes to a dusty and sudden end, marked by a 'Welcome to Esra Crossing Point' sign.

But there is nothing seductive about the grey and blue control centre with its bomb-shattered glass, casually dressed Israelis weighed down by weaponry, and pretty but stern women who will decide if you are indeed 'welcome'.

There's no queue to get in but tired faces staring back from the aspirational line on the other side of 'passport control' already tell a story. Cancer is their best chance of escape. Dying to leave.

The passage through 'no man's land' hints at the devastation caused by last summer's Operation Protective Edge.

An odious smell erodes the fresh air and every step through a desert cage is monitored from the watchtowers until you reach the tin hut that is Palestinian passport control.

Under the blazing sun, a line of yellow Skoda taxis wait for new arrivals. We are the only ones today so far.

The soldiers at the Hamas checkpoint just across the border give off a relaxed impression but are clearly suspicious. Everyone is a potential spy unless proven otherwise.

This is Gaza: land of the trapped. One of those places in the world like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan that we have come to know, but fail to understand.

It is still being pieced back together after last summer's 50-day war that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including around 500 children and 250 women.

A Palestinian walks on the rubble of the house of the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, hit by a pre-dawn Israeli strike, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian walks on the rubble of the house of the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, hit by a pre-dawn Israeli strike, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Seen from Gaza City, smoke and flames rise from Gaza's electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip,Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke rises from the offices of the Hamas movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, shortly after was hit and destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky of Gaza City on early Tuesday, July 29, 2014. A truce between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza remained elusive as diplomats sought to end the fighting at the start of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Smoke raises in the air following Israeli shelling in Gaza City on early Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian relatives comfort each other in front of the morgue of Shifa hospital following an explosion that killed 10 people, nine of them children at a park at Shati refugee camp, in Gaza city, in the northern Gaza Strip, Monday, July 28, 2014 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
An Israeli reserve soldier makes a wall with the Star of David from cardboard mortar shell boxes near the Israel Gaza border, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky of Gaza City on early Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky of Gaza City on early Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Israeli forces flares light up the night sky in the east of Gaza City on Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Israeli soldiers sleep on the top of a tank near the Israel Gaza border, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Palestinian relatives cry when mourners carry out the body of Gamal Ielian, 10, who was killed along with 9 other people, all but one of them children, in an explosion at a park at the Shati refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Demonstrators show their support during a pro-Israel rally on July 28, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A pro-Israeli demonstrator faces a group of Pro-Palestine demonstrators who staged a counter-demonstration across the street from a pro-Israel rally on July 28, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
People take part in a rally in support of Israel near the United Nations Headquarters on July 28, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Used artillery shells litter the ground on the morning of July 28, 2014 near Kafar Azza, Israel. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, July 27 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A member of the foreign media, left, cries as she embraces her Palestinian news assistant, right, who burst into tears after discovering his family house was destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian doctor treats 3-day-old Shaymaa al-Sheikh Ali at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in the northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
Palestinians carry the coffin of Christian woman Jalila Ayyad, 70, who was killed by an Israeli strike hit that destroyed her house, during her funeral at a church in Gaza City, Sunday, July 27, 2014.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A female protester against military action in Gaza wears a 'Silence is injustice' sign as she marches through Westminster, central London. Picture date: Saturday July 26, 2014.
Supporters of Israel are reflected in a mirror built on the Old Port during a demonstration in Marseille, southern France, Sunday, July 27, 2014 (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over a building in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Israeli left wing activists light candles with shape of the word "Sorry" in Hebrew and place portraits on the ground of Israelis and Palestinians who have been killed in the conflict, during a demonstration against the Gaza war, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Supporters of Israel wave flags and shout slogans during a demonstration in Marseille, southern France, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
A Palestinian man walks by buildings heavily damaged by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians walk amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Damage from Israeli strikes leaves a room in the children's ward scattered with debris, at a hospital in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke from Israeli strikes rises over Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians inspect the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli strike killing Christian woman Jalila Ayyad, 70, in Gaza City on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
An Israeli tank fires towards Gaza, near the Israel and Gaza border in the morning of Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
A Palestinian child who was injured in the war in Gaza gives the victory sign as he is prepared to be moved by ambulance from a hospital in north Sinai to Cairo after crossing the Gaza Egypt border Saturday, in el-Arish, 290 kilometers (180 miles) east of Cairo, Egypt, early Sunday, July 27, 2014.(AP Photo/Muhamed Sabry)
A news cameraman films at a live position as in the background smoke rises from an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke from Israeli strikes rises over Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Smoke from Israeli strikes rises over Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Pro-Palestinian protesters run amid tear gas canisters, as clashes erupted at Place de La Republique during a banned demonstration in support of Gaza, in Paris, France, Saturday, July 26, 2014 (AP Photo/Francois Mori )
A Palestinian supporter yells at opposing Israeli supporters as hundreds protest the war between Israel and Hamas members in the Gaza Strip in Toronto on Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)
Israeli soldiers pray near the Israeli Gaza border as the 24 hour ceasefire begins on July 27, 2014 on the Israeli/Gaza border, Israel. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
sraeli soldiers pray near the Israeli Gaza border as the 24 hour ceasefire begins on July 27, 2014 on the Israeli/Gaza border, Israel. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers pray near the Israeli Gaza border as the 24 hour ceasefire begins on July 27, 2014 on the Israeli/Gaza border, Israel. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from Gaza Strip after Israeli shelling moment before the 24 hour ceasefire on July 27, 2014 on the Israeli/Gaza border(Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Israeli strikes in Gaza are seen after a ceasefire failed on July 27, 2014 near Sderot, Israel. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
An Israeli tank fires artillery shells after a ceasefire failed on July 27, 2014 near Sderot, Israel (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Left wing Israelis take part in a protest against Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip on July 26, 2014 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
Protesters take part in a 'Stop the War' demonstration march from the Israeli Embassy to the Houses of Parliament on July 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Protesters take part in a 'Stop the War' demonstration march from the Israeli Embassy to the Houses of Parliament on July 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Orthodox Jews show their support for peace in Gaza as they attend a 'Stop the War' demonstration in Parliament Square on July 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Protesters take part in a 'Stop the War' demonstration march from the Israeli Embassy to the Houses of Parliament on July 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
In this Thursday, July 24, 2014 photo, Nema Abu al-Foul, 2 , who was injured while playing with others in front of her family's house in the Al-Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City in an Israeli missile strike on July 19, recovers at Shifa hospital. The strike hit a nearby building, breaking her nose and fracturing her skull, her family said. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian man cries after bringing a child, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, to the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians inspect the damage of their destroyed houses during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Smoke rises from a vehicle, destroyed by an Israeli strike, after Palestinian fire fighters put out the fire, in Gaza City, early Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians carry their belongings through rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli strikes, as they visit the area during a 12-hour cease-fire in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Israeli soldiers seen working on a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border on July 25, 2014 near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Palestinians sit on debris after seeing their homes destroyed in Israel's military operation on Gaza, during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
An Israeli soldier seen carrying tank ammo near the Israeli-Gaza border on July 25, 2014 near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers gather by flames created from a Molotov cocktail thrown by Palestinians during clashes in Hawara village near the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
A member of the media holds his arm after being injured while covering Palestinian supporters of Hamas clash with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers seen carrying tank ammo near the Israeli-Gaza border on July 25, 2014 near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Palestinians on the rubble of a home destroyed by an Israeli strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinian children carry drinking water to their homes in the Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinian children, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, are treated as they lay on the floor at the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A woman supporter of Jamaat-e-Islami takes part in a demonstration against the Israeli bombings in the Gaza strip, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
A Palestinian woman reacts after seeing her destroyed house during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian supporters of Hamas take shelter while clashing with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Palestinian supporters of Hamas clash with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Pro Palestinian demonstrators march through central London on July 25, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Pro Palestinian demonstrators march through central London on July 25, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Men attend the burial of Mohammed al-Araj during his funeral on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Israeli artillery fire near the Israeli-Gaza border on July 25, 2014 near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Israeli artillery seen near the Israeli-Gaza border on July 25, 2014 near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Israeli tanks seen near the Israeli-Gaza border on July 25, 2014 near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Palestinians carry a body of a man found under the rubble of a destroyed house during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
In this Friday, July 25, 2014 photo, Palestinians chant slogans to support the Palestinians in Gaza as others hold the Turkish flag, while protesting in the West Bank city of Jenin. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
In this Friday, July 25, 2014 photo, a Palestinian man burns tires during clashes with Israeli soldiers, following a protest to support the Palestinians in Gaza, at Al-Jlameh checkpoint near the West Bank city of Jenin. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
In this Friday, July 25, 2014 photo, Palestinians chant slogans to support the Palestinians in Gaza, while protesting in the West Bank city of Jenin. In the West Bank, which had been relatively calm for years, protests raged Friday against Israel's Gaza operation and the rising casualty toll there. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
A member of the media walks past a vehicle, destroyed by an Israeli strike, after Palestinian fire fighters put out the fire, in Gaza City, early Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinian medics dig out a body found under the rubbles of a home destroyed by an Israeli strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinians carry the body of Mohammed al-Araj during his funeral in the Qalandia refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Amidst the morning fog, smoke from an Israeli strike rises in the air over Gaza City, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Protesters take part in a 'Stop the War' demonstration march from the Israeli Embassy to the Houses of Parliament on July 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
An Israeli soldier meets with his loved ones during a 12-hour ceasefire just outside the militarised zone near the Israeli-Gaza border on July 26, 2014 near Zikim, Israel. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Protesters take part in a 'Stop the War' demonstration march from the Israeli Embassy to the Houses of Parliament on July 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
A woman takes part in a 'Stop the War' demonstration march from the Israeli Embassy to the Houses of Parliament on July 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Palestinian freelance photographer Motaz Al Salhy, center, accompanied by colleagues, cries as he holds the bloodied helmet of his friend, freelance cameraman Rami Rayan, who was killed while working, in an Israeli strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood outside the morgue of Gaza City's Shifa hospital, on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians injured from an Israeli Strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood, wait to receive treatment, at the emergency room of Shifa Hospital, in Gaza City, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians grieve over the bodies of their relatives killed in an Israeli strike at a U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp, at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians carry a man on a strecher to an ambulance following an Israeli Strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood, eastern Gaza City, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians help carry injured men following an Israeli Strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood, eastern Gaza City, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians help an injured man following an Israeli Strike in the Shijaiyah neighborhood, eastern Gaza City, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian worker inspects the damage of a destroyed carton factory after it was hit in an Israeli air strike in the Nusseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian weeps as he attends the bodies of Shaher al-Najar and his brother Bassem, killed in an Israeli strike, at the family house during the funeral in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
An Israeli forces flare lights up the sky of eastern Gaza City, early Wednesday, July 30, 2014, amid Israel's heaviest air and artillery assault in more than three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Israeli reserve soldiers rest at a stop near the Israel Gaza border after fighting in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israeli reserve soldiers return to Israel after fighting in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, as walking on a road near the Israel Gaza border on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Palestinians carry bodies of 10 members of the Al Astal immediate and extended family, killed by an Israeli strike early at their houses, during their funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
Palestinians prepare the bodies to pray over white coffin-draped bodies of ten members of the Al Astal immediate and extended family, killed by an Israeli strike early at their houses, during their funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
Palestinians inspect damage to adjacent houses from a fallen minaret of the Al-Sousi mosque that was destroyed in an Israel strike, at the Shati refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinian Ismail Radwan, 45, inspects the damage to his family apartment caused by a fallen minaret of the Al-Sousi mosque, that was destroyed in an Israel strike, at Shati refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian inspects damage to adjacent houses from a fallen minaret of the Al-Sousi mosque that was destroyed in an Israel strike, at the Shati refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
An injured Palestinian receives treatment at Nasser hospital following an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
Smoke rises from Al Zafer tower apartment damaged by an Israeli strike in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians help a man wounded as they walk over the rubble of destroyed buildings following an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
Palestinians help a woman overcome by emotion during the funeral of Shaher al-Najar, left, and his brother Bassem al-Najar, right, killed in an Israeli strike, at the family house in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian man grieves the death of his relative following an Israeli strike at a U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp, at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians look at donkeys killed and wounded, by an Israeli strike earlier, at and around the adjacent Abu Hussein U.N. school, seen background, in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian man shows a pool of blood where Shaher al-Najar and his brother Bassem al-Najar were killed by an Israeli strike, while sleeping at the family house in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian boy weeps next to the body of Bassem al-Najar, killed in an Israeli strike, at the family house during the funeral in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians cry around the bodies of Shaher al-Najar, left, and his brother Bassem al-Najar, right, killed in an Israeli strike, at the family house during their funeral in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian girl carries belongings as she and her family leave the Abu Hussein U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, hit by an Israeli strike earlier, on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Smoke rises in the sky following Israeli strikes on eastern Gaza City, early Wednesday, July 30, 2014, amid Israel's heaviest air and artillery assault in more than three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian man rests after receiving treatment for injuries caused by an Israeli strike at a U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp, at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian man leaves the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya after receiving treatment for his wounds caused by an Israeli strike at a UN school in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian boy cries while receiving treatment for injuries caused by an Israeli strike at a U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp, at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian mourners carry the bloodied bag with the body of their loved one, killed in an Israeli strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood, out of the morgue of Gaza City's Shifa hospital, during the funeral, on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Injured Palestinians lay on the ground following an Israeli Strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood, eastern Gaza City, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A South Korean student displays a message during a rally against the Israeli military operations in Gaza and the West Bank and wishes for peace near the Israeli Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A mural on the Falls Road, Belfast, calling for the 'Immediate Expulsion of All Israeli Diplomats from Eire' Picture date: Wednesday July 30, 2014.Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
A mural on the Falls Road, Belfast, calling for the 'Immediate Expulsion of All Israeli Diplomats from Eire' Picture date: Wednesday July 30, 2014.Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Protesters against military action in Gaza during a demonstration in Bristo Square, Edinburgh
A Palestinian relative helps a wounded woman following an Israeli air strike on a building in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014.(AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
Palestinians collect body parts in a classroom at the Abu Hussein U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, hit by an Israeli strike earlier, on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian man rushes a child, injured from an Israeli Strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood, to an emergency room at Shifa Hospital, in Gaza City, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians help carry injured men following an Israeli Strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood, eastern Gaza City, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians gather outside a classroom at the Abu Hussein U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, hit by an Israeli strike earlier, on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians inspect the damage at the Ameen mosque in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
A United Nations aid agency car lies destroyed by shrapnel from an Israeli strike in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. UN aid agency worker Mounir Haggar and his brother Bassir who were in the car were killed and Mounir's son Ibrahim, 12, was wounded, according to the UN. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians gather around a United Nations aid agency car that was damaged by shrapnel from an Israeli strike, in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians inspect the damage at the Ameen mosque in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
In this image taken from video an explosion hits the media complex that houses the offices of Hamas-run Al Aqsa television and radio in central Gaza City early on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. The building also houses offices of a number of Arab satellite television news channels. (AP Photo/APTN)
Smoke from the explosion of an Israeli strike rises over a UN school at Jebaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, where Palestinian displaced people had found refuge, on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian, relative of a person killed in an Israeli strike in Jebaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, cries as he walks during the funeral in Beit Lahiya, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
An Israeli reserve soldier gives the victory sign before entering the Gaza Strip near the Israel Gaza border, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Damaged Hamas prime minister's office is seen following Israeli strikes in Gaza City, in the Gaza Strip, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian worker carries a mattress from a destroyed carton factory after it was hit in an Israeli air strike in the Nusseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Smoke from the explosion of an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Smoke and flames rise from the Gaza power plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes, in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip,Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Smoke rises from an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke rises from an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian from a damaged neighbouring apartment building inspects the damage of the offices of the Hamas movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Smoke and flames rise from a burning fuel tank of Gaza's only power plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat Refugee Camp, central Gaza Strip,Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian from a neighbouring apartment building inspects the damage of the offices of the Hamas movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
US Secretary of State John Kerry answers questions about Israel's invasion of Gaza and the current situation in Ukraine following a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin at the State Department July 29, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A hospital worker opens the doors of the Rafah hospital morgue's cold storage, to show journalists the bodies of six Palestinians, killed in various Israeli airstrikes in the Rafah area, southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. Israeli war planes and naval vessels intensified attacks across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, targeting senior Hamas leaders and bombarding a coastal area, where four Palestinian boys were killed. The renewed violence came after Hamas formally rejected a cease-fire proposal that had been accepted by Israel to end the 9-day-old conflict that has left more than 200 Palestinians and one Israeli dead. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Protesters take part in a 'Stop the War' demonstration march from the Israeli Embassy to the Houses of Parliament on July 26, 2014 in London, England. The protesters were calling for an end to the violence in Gaza, which has seen the death of over 940, mostly civilian, Palestinians and 38 Israelis since the conflict started on July 8, 2014. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Palestinians and members of the media walk on the rubble of houses, destroyed by Israeli strikes, as they visit the area during a 12-hour cease-fire in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians walk by the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli strikes, as they return the area during a 12-hour cease-fire in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of Taib Mohammed Odeh, 22, front, and Khaled Odeh, 21, during their funeral in Hawara near Nablus, the northern West Bank, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
A Palestinian look outside from his destroyed house as he visits the area during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinian men climb on Israel's military vehicle that was left behind by the forces in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinians carry the body of Bassem Abo Al-Rob, 19, during his funeral in the West Bank village of Kabatyeh near Jenin city on Saturday, July 26, 2014 (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
Palestinians carry their belongings through rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli strikes, as they visit the area during a 12-hour cease-fire in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 26, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians salvage what little of their belongings they could from their homes during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians try to dig a body out of the rubble of a destroyed house hit by an Israeli strike during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian woman inspects the damage of her destroyed house during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014 (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian woman reacts after seeing her destroyed house during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Smoke rises from a vehicle, destroyed by an Israeli strike, after Palestinian fire fighters put out the fire, in Gaza City, early Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
An Israeli soldier aims at Palestinian protesters during clashes in Hawara village near the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
Palestinian medics carry a body of a man after they found him under the rubble of a home destroyed by an Israeli strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
An Israeli soldier aims his weapon at a Palestinian during clashes in Hawara village near the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
Palestinian medics search for possible victims under the rubble of a home destroyed by an Israeli strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinian relatives comfort each other during the funeral of 10 people who were killed in an Israeli strike in the yard of the United Nations school in Beit Hanoun, at the morgue of Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Yasser Qudih)
Palestinian youths weep while sitting by the rubble of a home destroyed by an Israeli strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
A Palestinian man inspects the destruction during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian man inspects the damage of his destroyed house during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian child, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, cries at the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian man carries a child, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a UN school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, cries at the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian child, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, cries at the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Blood and and discarded belongings are left behind at a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A displaced Palestinian girl who had lost her relative in an Israeli airstrike at a U.N school cries at Beit Hanoun hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a UN school in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing more than a dozen of people and wounding dozens who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinian children, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, lay on the floor of an emergency room at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
An Israeli soldier shoots tear gas towards Palestinian protesters against the Israeli military action in Gaza, during a demonstration at Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
Palestinian protesters against the Israeli military action in Gaza run from tear gas shot by Israeli soldiers, during a demonstration at Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Smoke and flames from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian runs in an area damaged in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Demonstrators hold candles in the rain during a memorial vigil of those killed during the continued violence in Gaza, on July 24, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold candles in the rain during a memorial vigil of those killed during the continued violence in Gaza, on July 24, 2014 in Berlin, Germany (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold candles in the rain during a memorial vigil of those killed during the continued violence in Gaza, on July 24, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Demonstrators in lower Manhattan protest against Israel's recent military campaign in Gaza on July 24, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Demonstrators in lower Manhattan protest against Israel's recent military campaign in Gaza on July 24, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Palestinians flee during a two hour temporary ceasefire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian man walks on the rubble of the building belonging to the Yazjhi family which was destroyed by an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, July 23, 2014.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A man works in the fields near the Israeli-Gaza border on July 23, 2014 near Kfar Aza, Israel. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Damages are seen of the building belonging to the Yazjhi family which was destroyed by an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Pages with the names of the 650 Palestinians who have been killed in Gaza are hung above the entrance to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London, after a protest by Palestine campaigners who blockaded the door to highlight the department's role in granting arms export licenses to Israel. Picture date: Wednesday July 23, 2014. Photo by PA
Smoke pours out of the ground due to an alleged campaign by the Israeli military to fill tunnels originating in Gaza with smoke to discover entrances into Israel on July 23, 2014 near Sderot, Israel. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers watch smoke pour out of Gaza on July 23, 2014 near Kafar Aza, Israel. As operation "Protective Edge " enters its 16th day, 29 Israeli soldiers have been killed and over 600 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers fire artillery shells into Gaza on July 23, 2014 near Kafar Aza, Israel. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Palestinian Khaled Sharmi, 67, walks past the Al Aqsa Martyrs mosque, destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, in Gaza City Tuesday, July 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian walks inside the Al Aqsa Martyrs mosque destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, in Gaza City, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Palestinian man inspects the Al Aqsa Martyrs mosque destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, in Gaza City, Tuesday, July 22, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, Gaza Strip
Palestinians inspect the Al Farouk mosque which was destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
Palestinian protesters run from tear gas thrown by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against the Israeli military action in Gaza, near the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said this week, 44pc of those killed in the Strip between July 8 and August 27 were armed fighters.

But an international report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in nine days, is expected to say the civilian death toll far outweighed the terrorist fatalities.

Israel suffered casualties too, the rockets reined down. Sixty-six military personnel died and seven civilians.

The IDF used the so-called "knock on the roof" method to warn people of impending attacks, by launching a non-explosive missile before the main strike.

The damage was catastrophic, and yet, there are still flashes of colour.

A beautiful pier dotted with small fishing boats in uniform yellow, blue and red. The sandy beach overlooked by the boutique al-Deira hotel is teeming again at the exact spot where, less than a year ago, a missile attack killed four children. Life goes on. The city is humming as cars compete with donkeys for road space. The animated urban pulse is balanced by laid-back rural villages.

The children are like butterflies, feeding their boredom with dreams of Messi and Princess Elsa.

The whole place has a 'back to the future' charm and its own iris blue sky that any tourist agent could literally sell as 'out of this world'.

But blink and refocus - it's a warzone; a prison for 1.8 million people. On one side, a 25ft-wall blocks sight of the sunflowers. On the other, the Mediterranean stretches to a horizon marshalled by gunboats.

By the time they are adolescents, the children feel backed into a corner in a place that the UN predicts will be unliveable by 2020.

"This house could fall at any moment," says Shadi Abu Ouda (28). It was the second day of the ground incursion that left his four-storey home standing by the grace of a strong central pillar.

On the shaky third floor, the bedroom comes with a hole gaping over a squashed Mercedes below.

In the next room, a photograph of Shadi's sister hides a smaller hole. No more than the other two walls that the mortar burst through, the 16-year-old didn't stand a chance.

Read more

'No justice' over Gaza beach deaths

Even if they had the money to rebuild, they can't because restrictions on import/export mean enough cement is getting across the border.

Besides, it's a game of Jenga. What goes up is likely to eventually come crashing down. It's a risk that the aid agencies have to take for bigger infrastructure projects or else the encircled population stand no chance.

Unicef is putting the final touches to a €10m desalination plant, but Hamas has set up a training camp in the next field, instantly making the area a target for air strikes.

Families pay up to €195 a year in water charges but more than 90pc of the supply is contaminated.

Schools have had to double up as shelters and the hospitals are not a place for respite.

The majority of the 50,000 babies born in Gaza each year are sent home within two hours.

"Sometimes we give them supplements like iron and folic acid when they are available," explains Dr Sawsan Hammad, a senior officer at the health ministry, who meets us despite being on strike. Thousands of civil servants haven't been paid since last year but refuse to let Gaza grind to a complete halt.

Read more 

Israeli soldiers reveal they were ordered to shoot to kill in Gaza – even if targets were civilians

In the south-eastern village of Khuza, we met Jamila Obaud (28) who became pregnant shortly after her home was obliterated. Now living in the back room of a petrol station, she cradles Soha (20 days). The only furniture is a wardrobe decorated with a SpongeBob SquarePants sticker.

"It's very difficult living in this place. My children don't wash very often. The bathroom is a hole in the ground. We feel like nomads," she says.

Another mother, Ranit (29), spent last summer in the north of Gaza "running from bombs like Tom and Jerry" with her newborn.

The mother-of-four is grateful for the bulldozers outside that are finally clearing the roadway outside of twisted metal. "I wish for peace but my heart tells me that we are coming to a more difficult time," she says, while holding four-month-old Rahf.

It's only on the way out of the hut that I notice Rahf's mentally disabled uncle is chained to a pillar. He hugs a small radio listening to music and moves two steps forward and two steps back.

At first it seems barbaric, but in the reality of Gaza, it's practical. Even if he negotiated his way around the demolition site outside, he would only need to walk 100 metres to find himself in 'the buffer zone' - an area of mostly fertile land leading to 'the wall'. Step inside and you will be shot. Only farmers known to the Israelis are allowed on that land.

Fishing is also a key employer, albeit a high-risk one. At sea, the fishermen can't go beyond three nautical miles without finding themselves in the line of Israeli fire. They attach massive floodlights to their trawlers in a bid to attract fish into the shallow water.

At over 40pc, Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world - making it hard to motivate students.

It's estimated 373,000 scared children require specialised psychosocial support. Among them is Zain Ebrahim (9) who shows an immediate hesitancy after his father, a property developer, invites us into the utility room where they now live. Zain was top of his class but now draws pictures of missiles bearing down on his family. His siblings were barefoot as fled their home with tanks just 50 metres away, climbing over bodies in the streets.

Read more

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UK approved £7m arms deals to build Israel’s drones, helicopters and lasers in run-up to Gaza offensive

Palestine vote: British MPs take historic decision to recognise Palestinian state

His father has installed a vegetable patch with peppers, chillies, corn, mint and pumpkins where the house used to be. "We are planting it in order to clear the image of destruction from our heads," he says.

Zain's counsellors say he is improving but as the ceasefire wobbles that, F-16 fighter jets return overhead bringing back all the terror. Seven bombs are dropped before daylight breaks the tension, and life goes again.

Some children are sent to work, rummaging through the broken dreams of their families looking for quality metal. A good bag will earn them two Shekels (46 cents).

Abbas Abu Khmis (15) has his own business offering camel rides on the beach for one shekel each. On a busy day, he makes 40 shekels. His family have pitched their tents beside the Wadi Gaza river which is overflowing with sewage. The smell is toxic.

It's easy to see how young adults - shut off from the world - turn to militants. Hamas don't use child soldiers for combat. But go down the beach early and you'll see the 'summer camps' where teenagers combine fitness training with military stealth.

There is the odd story of escape like one teenager who managed to forge documents and pretend he got a scholarship in Malaysia. He risked everything to ride a rollercoaster and returned to his family a few days later.

It sounds like one of those urban legends but it gives faint hope to all the young men who lack the machismo of their new-found adulthood. Even for us, getting out is daunting. Gaza guilt seeps in as we broach no man's land again and head for the rest of the world.

Back through the cage, we show our passport to a CCTV camera. A steel door opens and we squeeze through to a small grey room. We open our bags on the table and rummage through them for another camera. A green light flickers and we are faced with a line of turnstiles.

Entry to Israel is through number seven. Our bags slip off into the black hole and come out opened and distorted. We go through a body scanner and finally the attractive girl at passport control clicks a button. Freedom.

Outside in the soaring heat, we venture towards a cabin that is the first toilet in Israel. Faeces coats the ground and wall, providing lunch for two rats.

For the few Palestinians who do make it to the normal world, that will be their first experience.

It's only been four days but the sunflowers seem ripe.

Irish Independent

You can make an online donation to Unicef here

Further reading

Rocket fired into Israel

Canada's plan to make boycotting Israel a 'hate crime' is stupid and counterproductive  

‘Israel must end collective punishment of Gaza’s people,’ pleads UN commissioner Pierre Krähenbühl

Israel: IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, thought to have been kidnapped by Hamas, was killed in Gaza

  Yes, an Israeli newspaper wrote a story about an OWL being injured by Hamas in Gaza

'Mr Obama - do you have a heart? Spend one night with us in Gaza. It would change history' ... Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert's open letter evokes conditions in Shifa hospital

Video: The moment UN spokesman breaks down in flood of tears discussing Israeli attacks on Gaza

UN accuse Israel of possible war crime after shelling of one of its schools kills 19 and injuries more than 100

Deadly flechette shells used by Israeli military in Gaza  

The myth of Hamas’s human shield

' Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and hookahs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'

Gaza back-story: A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory

Cameraman in Gaza 'killed by deadly flechettes fired from Israeli tank'

Israel 'used white phosphorus deliberately and recklessly'

Kim Sengupta: Claims that Israel is using white phosphorus illegally won't go away

UN: Israelis hit our headquarters in Gaza with 'white phosphorus' shells  

Dime bombs leave Israel's victims with mystery wounds  

Israel accused of Gaza war crimes in Amnesty report

Gaza: Demolished in three weeks. Rebuilding it will take years

Outrage as Israel bombs UN HQ, hospital, school and media building

Irish Independent

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