On a hill lying near the Gaza Strip’s eastern border with Israel, Youssef Abu Shreitah hammered a stack of used wood slabs together with nails to build a small pyramid-shaped house.
Abu Shreitah, a government employee, took his woodworking hobby to the next level when he began building wooden huts to replace the tin-and-cloth shacks that had long sheltered residents of Gaza City’s Al-Shaath district.
Most of the makeshift homes in the Bedouin-style neighborhood were destroyed by Israel during the latter’s 51-day military onslaught on the embattled Palestinian enclave this summer.
“Wooden [huts] are becoming more and more popular in Gaza,” Abu Shreitah, 33, told Anadolu Agency.
After he built a wooden home for himself and his family in the Gaza Strip’s Jabalia city, he said that dozens of people in Al-Shaath – whose homes had been destroyed by Israel – had asked him to build similar housing units for them at a cost of $1000 per two-room cabin.
“They cost very little compared to cement homes. With some adjustments, they can withstand winter weather better than tin cabins,” Abu Shreitah said.
He went on to point out that the cost-effective idea had yet to receive any support from a government body or NGO.
Another advantage is that wood is readily available in Gaza.
Israel, which has blockaded the strip for nearly eight years, usually allows wood into the territory through the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing – unlike cement, which Israel fears could be used to build fortifications or tunnels.
“These wooden housing units defy the Israeli blockade, which has prevented the reconstruction of Gaza by barring the entry of building materials,” Abu Shreitah said.
Abu Shreitah says he seldom needs to buy wood as he mostly recycles discarded wooden containers and pieces of wood extracted from rubble in areas bombed by Israel during the recent war, which left thousands of Palestinian homes in ruins.
According to the Gaza Strip chamber of commerce, the amount of building supplies currently being allowed into the strip represents only 18 percent of what is needed to repair the devastation caused by Israel’s seven-week onslaught this summer.
Robert Turner, director of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), has said that the UN’s reconstruction plan for Gaza could take “up to three years” to finish.
The Palestinian government recently began distributing limited quantities of building supplies in the Gaza Strip in line with a UN-brokered deal between Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
During Israel’s recent offensive, 15,671 housing units were damaged across the Gaza Strip, including 2,276 that were totally destroyed, according to official Palestinian figures.
More than 2,160 Gazans, meanwhile, mostly civilians, were killed – and another 11,000 injured – during seven weeks of unrelenting Israeli attacks throughout July and August.
The Israeli offensive finally ended on August 26 with the announcement of an indefinite cease-fire with Palestinian resistance factions.
The cease-fire also called for reopening the strip’s border crossings with Israel, which, if implemented, would effectively end the self-proclaimed Jewish state’s seven-year blockade of the coastal territory.
Abu Shreitah, meanwhile, continues to assemble his wooden, pyramid-roofed homes, a number of which can be seen stretching over the hills of Al-Shaath, reminding the builder of an Istanbul suburb.
“Unlike tin and cement, homes made of wood give the area a simple, popular feel,” he said. “I call it ‘Little Istanbul’.”