Editor's note: Journalist Anna Therese Day began her Middle East reporting covering the aftermath of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009 and returned to Gaza in November 2012 to cover the most recent Hamas-Israel war.
The recent developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict feel like déjà vu to civilians in Israel and Gaza. The 2008-2009 war between Hamas and Israel was followed shortly afterward by an Israeli election and Hamas claims of victory despite the lopsided civilian casualties. The most recent military escalation between Hamas and Israel in November of 2012, “Round 2” as many Israelis and Palestinians are calling it, has been marked by similar developments, from identical targets, the same old rhetoric from both sides, to the upcoming Israeli election this week.
This photo essay shows the aftermath of destruction in the Gaza Strip, then and now, four years after the conclusion of the first major military escalation between Hamas and Israel.
Left: A young Palestinian man poses against a mural of Yasser Arafat, seen by many as the father of Palestinian resistance.
Right: This mural was destroyed with the destruction of the Alsaraia National Security compound, which now lays in ruins.
Left: Welcome to GAZA: Rafah Border Crossing between Gaza and Egypt
In 2009, Egypt heeded the United States and Israel’s demand to keep Rafah border crossing closed during the war and maintained the siege following the ceasefire. During Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, the Israeli government simultaneously blocked journalists’ entry into Gaza via Israeli controlled border crossings, limiting the coverage of the war in the international press.
Middle: Long Walk from Erez
Italian photographer Patrick Tombola pushes his bags full of flak jackets and equipment along the long corridor between Israel and Gaza through Erez crossing.
Right: Rafah Crossing 2012
Despite an easing of regulations since the ouster of Mubarak, Egyptian authorities of Rafah border crossing continued to impede Palestinian freedom of movement and international professionals from entering Gaza.
This time around, Israel allowed foreign journalists with Israeli government-issued press cards to enter via Erez crossing at times, at a more efficient pace than the Egyptian press office controlling Rafah border crossing. The catch: Israel generally denies Palestinians or foreign journalists with Palestinian and often even just Arab or Muslim ancestry or surnames from entering the country in the first place.
Left: Gaza Seaport bustling months after the Hamas-Israel war of 2009.
Right: Gaza Seaport cratered by drones, sprinkled in shrapnel.
Left: 2009: A borderland gas station in Gaza gets caught in the crossfire, destroyed by Israeli attacks on the illegal tunnels along the border.
Right: 2012: The same borderland gas station in Gaza remains a skeleton. “We’re not allowed to import certain construction materials because of the Israeli siege,” explains a Hamas official. “So much of the destruction from 2009 just stagnates.”
Left: 2009: The Israeli attacks on Gaza resulted in the destruction of a countless number of civilian targets, including this media center in Gaza City.
Middle, Right: 2012 Israeli Strike on Al Sharook Tower, Palestinian Media Center
Israel received fierce criticism from the international press as well as international NGOs for strikes that hit numerous Palestinian media outlets. Amnesty International has called for an investigation into IAF conduct on this front.
Right: 2009: Murals of prominent Palestinian political, military, and social leaders line the walls of the Alsaraia National Security compound in Gaza.
Left: 2012: The Alsaraia National Security compound was destroyed in an Israeli strike, leaving a skeleton of the previous murals and a bombed out security compound.
Left: Parliament in pieces, 2009
Top: Young Palestinian men in front of the destruction of Gaza’s parliament building following an Israeli bombardment.
Right: 2012: Parliament back in business, 2012
“Maybe they decided not to build it as high this time, just in case,” says Palestinian translator, Mohammed Rajab. The building’s exterior is covered with pictures of parliamentarians in Israeli prisons as well as a banner thanking the nation of Qatar for its financial support.
The international community continues to demand independent investigations into the conduct of both Israel and Hamas in the 2008-2009 war. Similar demands are expected of both belligerent parties regarding this most recent 2012 escalation which left 139 Palestinians and 3 Israelis dead.
Anna Therese Day is an independent journalist based in the Middle East and North Africa. You can follow her on the ground in Syria next month on Twitter at @AnnaOfArabia or on Facebook at Facebook.com/AnnaThereseDay