‘Where is my home?’: Destruction awaits Palestinians returning to Khan Younis

An estimated 55% of the buildings in south Gaza’s Khan Younis area – around 45,000 buildings – have been destroyed or damaged, according to two mapping experts.

A city shattered beyond recognition awaited Palestinians who returned to Khan Younis on Monday, following the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Stunned civilians filed home to recover what they could from the immense destruction left after months of fighting and bombardment by Israel.

Families sifted through swathes of rubble and debris – once people’s homes and businesses – along streets bulldozed to dirt.

Buildings that still stood were gutted and burned out from shelling, riddled with bullet holes. Floors dangled precipitously.

The destruction of south Gaza’s Khan Younis highlighted the immense toll of one of the world’s most destructive and lethal military assaults in recent decades.

Most of the tiny enclave, home to 2.3 million people, is unlivable.

An estimated 55% of the buildings in the Khan Younis area – around 45,000 buildings – have been destroyed or damaged, according to mapping experts Corey Scher of City University of New York and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University.

The ruins could spell what is in store for the 1.4 million people sheltering in the southern border city of Rafah, which Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed to invade.

Returning to Khan Younis Magdy Abu Sahrour was shocked to see his house in ruins.

“I couldn’t find my home because of all the destruction,” he said, standing in front of the rubble. “Where is my place, where is my home?”

Israeli troops stormed Khan Younis in December as part of their blistering ground offensive, following Hamas’ 7 October attack on southern Israel.

The war has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to local health authorities. Israeli authorities say 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Hamas’ surprise assault.

Many of the thousands who came to Khan Younis by foot or on carts on Monday have been sheltering in Rafah. Israel’s withdrawal allowed them to see the wreckage of their homes and retrieve some possessions.

They said they had little immediate chance to return, with the city now unlivable.

One woman clambered over collapsed concrete slabs that were once her home. Her son crawled under the rubble and twisted rebar, clearing away concrete blocks.

“There are no words to describe the pain inside me,” she said, her voice breaking. “Our memories, our dreams, our childhood here, our family … It’s all gone.”

(Source: Euronews)