Palestinian housing co-ops destroyed in Israeli air raids

The Gaza Strip, which is being targeted in response to last week’s attacks by Hamas, is home to 155 co-operative societies

Life in Gaza has become “almost non-existent”, according to Izz Edin Abu Taha, chair of the Union of Housing Cooperatives (UHC) in Palestine.

While the Union is based in Ramallah, in the West Bank area, its members also include housing co-ops in the Gaza Strip. Gaza is being hit by Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for an attack on Israel by Hamas, which has been running the strip since 2007. The attack on 7 October targeted Israeli kibbutz communities and attendees of a music festival near the border with Gaza, with more than 1,400 people killed.

Related: Hundreds of Israeli kibbutzim members reported dead following an attack by Hamas

The Gaza Strip is home to 155 co-operative societies, which include 16 thousand co-operative families. UHC cannot confirm how many of these families have lost members in the conflict so far. According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, 5,087 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war with Israel (figures from 23 October). Save the Children says that at least 2,000 children have been killed in Gaza and a further 27 killed in the West Bank.

“We are losing contact with most of the co-operative societies,” Taha told Co-op News. “They have abandoned their homes, or their homes have been bombed, or some of their family members have been killed or wounded in hospitals. Or there is no possibility of communicating with them because there is no electricity or communication.

“A portion of these families had their homes bombed and their children and women killed. This is in addition to the injured. These numbers affected by the bombing, killing, and displacement of members of co-operative societies cannot be counted, given the continued bombing around the clock every day without discrimination.”

Yasser Arafat Association of Cooperative Housing towers destroyed by the air raids (Photo credit: UHC)

Several co-op buildings have been targeted by air strikes, including the Yasser Arafat Association of Cooperative Housing, which consists of five towers with a total of 197 apartments.

According to UHC, the first tower, which has 37 apartments, was almost completely demolished. The most severely affected were the 18 apartments in the eastern half of the tower. The foundations of the western half of the tower were also damaged, and the remaining part of the tower is leaning.

UHC says the second tower, which has 37 apartments, was completely destroyed while the third tower, which has 36 apartments, suffered damage to the eighth and ninth floors and the roof. The fourth tower, which has 47 apartments, suffered damage to the eighth and ninth floors and the roof and the fifth tower, which has 40 apartments, had its western half completely demolished, according to UHC.

“The occupation destroyed more than eight towers with 352 apartments in the towers of the Intelligence Cooperative Housing Association in the northwest of Gaza City,” said Taha. “Hundreds of families have been displaced from the Intelligence housing area in search of missing shelter in Gaza.”

Efforts to sustain life are almost impossible in the absence of water, electricity, and food, he added.

Tents for Palestinians seeking refuge are set up on the grounds of a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) centre in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on 19 October, 2023 (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Taha is also the general secretary of the General Cooperative Union in Palestine, which has launched a plea for an immediate humanitarian intervention in Gaza.

“The Israeli military has employed a broad spectrum of weaponry, including airstrikes, artillery, and tanks, to strike civilian targets within Gaza. Hospitals, schools, and mosques have suffered devastating blows, resulting in an unacceptable loss of countless lives and severe injuries to innocent civilians. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire and growing more desperate. The Israeli blockade has severely restricted the importation of essential supplies such as food, water, and medical necessities. Many individuals are struggling to access basic provisions, exposing them to heightened risks of disease and suffering. We urgently implore your assistance in shedding light on this critical situation and advocating for an immediate halt to the Israeli assault on Gaza. Furthermore, we call for the lifting of the Israeli blockade and the prompt provision of vital humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza,” read the appeal.

The plea also calls for the lifting of the Israeli blockade and the provision of vital humanitarian assistance, an immediate ceasefire, and a two-state solution.

“Our people bear the burden of inconsistent international standards and are victims of historical injustices,” added the appeal.

Several NGOs and international organisations have launched appeals to raise funding to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, including Unicef, UN Crisis Relief, Human Appeal, Oxfam and Islamic Relief

Gaza has been under an Israeli air, sea, and land blockade since the election of Hamas in 2007. According to the UN, the strip is home to 2.3 million people, 80% of whom depend on international aid.

After various calls by UN relief agencies for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to deliver stockpiled aid into Gaza the Rafah crossing from Egypt opened on 21 October. Humanitarian aid trucks for Gaza were allowed in on 21, 22 and 23 October.

The UN estimates that 1.4 million Gazans have been displaced with more than half a million people in 147 UN shelters.

This story was last updated on 24 October