With the current Egypt-brokered cease fire between Israel and Hamas holding, the residents of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, began returning to their homes to find what was left after almost four weeks of war.
Up until today, residents of areas hardest hit by shelling and airstrikes had been unable to return to their homes for fear of getting trapped amid the violence. At the al-Nahda towers in Beit Lahiya, families found their homes in ruins, and tried to salvage what was left of their personal belongings. Driving through to Beit Hanoun, the streets were busy as people returned to work, shops were opening, and people checked on their families.
In Beit Hanoun, however, the grim task of recovering the dead trapped underneath the rubble was underway, with some bodies having lain undiscovered since the start of the conflict. The al-Nasri family held a quick burial for Muhammed, 26, who left behind a pregnant wife, in the cemetery in front of his destroyed home. Suddenly a shout went up — more bodies had been discovered a few blocks away, and the bulldozer and a small army of locals headed to the site.
The al-Wahadan family was searching for 12 family members thought to be trapped under the rubble. Sami al-Wahadan couldn't figure out why they had been targeted.
"We're poor farmers here," he said. "no one is in the resistance here."
With swarms of flies crowding around certain heaps of rubble, it wasn't too difficult to locate the bodies. However, with the munitions used and the weeks the bodies spent decomposing, there wasn't much left to recover, and family members had to pick up chunks of flesh and bone and put them into body bags — a grim task that clearly took its toll.
All photos by Henry Langston
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