The war in Gaza is over, but the approximately 10,000 residents of Khuza’a do not yet believe it. The sound of reconnaissance aircraft flying nearby continues to make them think of death.
Mohammed al-Najjar, 23, standing near the rubble that used to be his home, said, “The war will be resumed, we know it. Can’t you hear the sound of drones? It is not enough for them that they left us with destroyed homes and painful memories. They want to maintain the threat.”
Mohammed is not the only one who feels insecure. These days, insecurity is a shared feeling for all the residents of this town who preferred to return to their destroyed homes rather than stay in refugee school shelters. They tell the same stories heard elsewhere in Gaza. The mass destruction of houses by the Israeli air force has left a heavy burden on Khuza’a. Al-Monitor tried twice to enter the town during the war, but Israeli forces had declared it a military zone and prohibited anyone from approaching it. The entrance to the town does not indicate much about the current situation in the town. Al-Monitor visited the Najjar family’s neighborhood.
Standing next to some water storage tanks being repaired, Riad al-Najjar, 42, told Al-Monitor, “They used explosives to demolish houses. We found dynamite among the hay.” Everyone here knows the details of what happened, the names of the martyrs, their stories and their backgrounds. This is a new sacred memory for the town.”
Mahmoud al-Najjar, 22, told Al-Monitor, “The first time we were able to enter Khuza’a after leaving it following the ground invasion, we found at the entrance, a 9-year-old girl in a wheelchair shot dead. Her body was decomposed. Not far away from her, we found the decomposed body of an old man. They were from the Abou Rjeily family, and it seemed that they were trying to escape. In the demolished houses, we found the bodies of some of the resistance fighters. As we tried to pull them out [from under the rubble], their feet or hands would come off.”
Located in the southern Gaza Strip, east of Khan Yunis on the border with Israel, Khuza’a was one of the main confrontation lines during the war. Bakr al-Najjar, 26, said, “The army told us to get out, and as we walked amid the bombs and rockets falling on us like rain, they opened fire on us. My uncle and my cousin died in front of me. We were unable to turn back. We had to leave the bodies behind. We just had to keep walking.