23:57 GMT15 June 2021
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    Israel's military campaign in Gaza has entered its seventh day. So far, the confrontation with Hamas has cost the lives of 10 Israelis. Palestinians are reporting that 145 people have died in the conflict, including 41 children.

    Hassan Al Balaawi, a 52-year-old Palestinian from the Al Shati refugee camp located in the West of Gaza City, never thought he would lose his home twice.

    Sense of Deja Vu

    But the recent escalation, with Hamas, which controls the Strip, firing rockets at Israel and the Jewish state retaliating, showed Al Balaawi that in an area that sees constant conflicts, history can easily repeat itself.

    "In 2014, I was living in Rafah city. When the war erupted, Israeli jets destroyed the building we were living in. Back then, my wife asked me to leave Rafah and relocate to another city, as she was struggling to cope with that trauma," recalled the father of six.

    However, their relocation to Gaza city didn't put an end to Al Balaawis' suffering: on May 11, Israeli warplanes left him without a home once again.

    "My wife and I had just finished our Fajr prayers [the first prayer of the day that's offered before sunrise - ed.] and we told our children to have some rest before the beginning of the working day. Then, we heard a huge explosion."

    That explosion was probably a warning sign by the IDF indicating that the building would soon be destroyed. What followed next was chaos. Al Balaawi, together with his family, rushed out of the house. So did his multiple neighbours, overwhelmed by panic and fear. 

    Once the building was totally evacuated, the IDF, says Al Balaawi, struck a second time. It took minutes to render the residential tower into a pile of rubble.

    Israel started its operation the Guardian of the Walls, after the militants of Hamas and other Islamic groups deemed terrorists by the Jewish state, launched a series of rockets into the Israeli territories, leaving the country paralysed and pushing many civilians to look for shelter.

    Since last Tuesday, Gaza militants have fired more than 1,500 rockets into Israeli towns and cities. Although the Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted many of those launches, those assaults have claimed the lives of 10 Israelis. Dozens of others have been wounded. Many properties have been destroyed.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that his country would not be sitting idly by, watching Gaza militants terrorise Israeli civilians. 

    During the night, the IDF struck dozens of buildings and sites belonging to the militants of the Islamic group, including areas used for missile launches, a local bank responsible for funding Hamas' terror activities, a weapons depot and a house belonging to one of the top commanders.

    Since the beginning of the operation, dozens of military targets have been destroyed. Many of them, says the IDF, were located in densely populated areas, in residential buildings, next to mosques, hospitals and even schools, something that pushed the Palestinian death toll up.

    According to reports, at least 145 Palestinians have been killed in the operation so far. Some were Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives. 41 of those killed were children.

    Thankful To Be Alive

    Al Balaawi says he is thankful he is not another name on that list but he does feel angry at Israel for putting him through so much suffering.

    "Israel insists on attacking us civilians. They know we are not connected to Hamas but they keep on bombarding us. Thank God I am alive. But now I need to think where to live and I need to cater to my elderly parents, who have become homeless just like me".

    Hamas, believes Al Balaawi, will not help him out. After the destruction of 2014 that was estimated at costing roughly $6 billion, it took the Islamic group years to rebuild what had been destroyed.

    This time around it might happen again and this is the reason, why Al Balaawi says he counts only on himself and God to help him steer through the current crisis.

    Hamas, Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Gaza Strip, Israel
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