Here’s how long it could take to rebuild Gaza after the war

Rebuilding Gaza’s shattered homes will take at least until 2040 but could drag on for many decades, according to a UN report released on Thursday.

Nearly seven months of Israeli bombardment have caused billions of dollars in damage, leaving many of the crowded strip’s high-rise concrete buildings reduced to heaps, with a UN official referring to a “moonscape” of destruction.

At least 370,000 housing units in Gaza have been damaged, including 79,000 destroyed completely, according to the new report by the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which details how Israel’s assault, launched after Hamas-led Oct. 7 militant attacks, has devastated the economy of the Palestinian territories, and how the impact will increase the longer the conflict goes on.

After previous Israel-Hamas conflicts, housing was rebuilt at a rate of 992 units year. Even in a best-case scenario in which construction materials are delivered five times as fast as in the last Gaza crisis in 2021, it would take until 2040 to rebuild the destroyed houses, without repairing the damaged ones, the report said.

But the UNDP assessment notes that Gaza would need “approximately 80 years to restore all the fully destroyed housing units” under a scenario assuming the pace of reconstruction follows the trend of several previous Gaza conflicts.

A separate report based on satellite images analyzed by the United Nations showed that 85.8 per cent of schools in Gaza had suffered some level of damage since Oct. 7. Over 70 per cent of schools will require major or full reconstruction, the UN statement added.

A young boy stands behind a mattress atop a pile of concrete rubble and debris inside a destroyed home.
A Palestinian child looks on as people check the damage in a house destroyed by an Israeli bombardment in Rafah, in southern Gaza, on April 27. (AFP/Getty Images)

The UNDP assessment makes a series of projections on the war’s socioeconomic impact based on the duration of the current conflict, projecting decades of suffering.

“Unprecedented levels of human losses, capital destruction, and the steep rise in poverty in such a short period of time will precipitate a serious development crisis that jeopardizes the future of generations to come,” said UNDP administrator Achim Steiner in a statement.

In a scenario where the war lasts nine months, poverty is set to increase from 38.8 per cent of Gaza’s population at the end of 2023 to 60.7 per cent, dragging a large portion of the middle class below the poverty line, the report said.

Gaza, home to some 2.3 million Palestinians, has been under blockade by Israel and Egypt since Hamas’s 2007 takeover, putting tight controls on what enters and exits the territory. Even before the war, it faced “hyper-unemployment” of 45 per cent, reaching nearly 63 per cent among younger workers.

Since the war began, it lost some 201,000 jobs.

WATCH | Khan Younis residents return to see what’s left of homes:

Going back home: Follow Palestinians as they return to Khan Younis

As the IDF pulls out of areas of Gaza, these residents made their way back to Khan Younis to see what is left of their homes after six months of war.

The death toll in Gaza has soared to more than 34,500 people, including at least 9,500 women and more than 14,500 children, according to local health officials, and the territory’s entire population has been driven into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Palestinian militants killed around 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducting around 250 hostages, according to Israeli government tallies. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Aid delivery pier to open soon

A maritime pier constructed by the U.S. military to speed the flow of humanitarian aid in Gaza should be open within a matter of days, despite poor weather that is hampering preparations, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday.

“We were hoping within days. I think that’s still a hope,” Kirby said at a news briefing.

A satellite image showing a swathe of destroyed buildings in a Gaza neighbourhood.
A satellite image by Maxar Technologies, captured on Oct. 21, 2023, shows damage to buildings and structures after Israeli bombardments of the northeastern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun. (Maxar Technologies/The Associated Press)

Aid began passing through the newly opened Erez border crossing to northern Gaza on Wednesday, where at least 70 per cent of the remaining population is experiencing catastrophic hunger.

The UN’s World Food Program warned in March that the northern region could reach the threshold for famine as soon as this month. 

But the U.S. State Department, on Thursday, accused Hamas of intercepting part of the first shipment. 

Hamas held the trucks “for some time” but United Nations humanitarian workers have since recovered the aid, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. Miller said this was the first major diversion of an aid shipment by Hamas during nearly six months of war in Gaza.

Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of stealing aid in Gaza.

The humanitarian convoy was the same one attacked by Israeli settlers earlier on its journey Wednesday in an attempt to block the convoy from the Erez crossing into Gaza, Miller said.

Miller, who condemned the Israeli settler attack, called Hamas’s diversion an “unacceptable act” and said such actions jeopardize international efforts to push food into the territory to stave off an imminent threat of famine.

He declined to identify the humanitarian organization involved, or discuss the crew that was with the shipment.

WATCH | Palestinians in Gaza skeptical of ceasefire talks:

Palestinians skeptical of renewed ceasefire talks

As reports of a renewed ceasefire between Israel and Hamas circulate, Palestinians in Gaza are skeptical anything will come of it as they deal with the aftermath of another attack in Rafah.

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