Five years on, several hundred Gazans who saw their homes left in ruins and lost their family members, still haven't reconciled with their loss.

In July and August 2014, Israel launched a devastating war on Gaza, which left at least 2,251 Palestinians dead.

Of these casualties, the vast majority were civilians caught up in the Israeli army’s relentless bombardment of the densely populated territory - home to around two million people.

In addition to the human cost, Palestinians in Gaza faced the arduous task of rebuilding. The region's infrastructure was turned to rubble, sewage systems and roads were damaged, and the ongoing siege meant supplies for reconstruction were in short order.

TRT World spoke to one survivor of the onslaught, Yasir Mahmoud Lotfi Alhaj, about the day he lost everything and everyone he loved, and how he rebuilt his life.

Yasir’s family home was bombed on July 10 2014, just two days after Israel began its bombing campaign.

He was on his way back from meeting some friends and was just 100 metres away from his house when an Israeli strike hit his building, killing his entire family.

“There was my dad, my mother, three brothers, three sisters...all of them were martyred, everyone who was in the house was martyred,” he told TRT World, adding that his family received no prior warning of the attack.

“We were not warned [by Israel] at all, no phone calls, no alarm, no anything. Not even the neighbours, most of them were in their houses and they were all injured.”

The Israeli attack destroyed three houses and more than 40 people were injured in the bombing.

The scene after the Israeli strike on Yasir al Haj's home [Belal Khaled]
The scene after the Israeli strike on Yasir al Haj's home [Belal Khaled] (TRTWorld)

But Yasir knew none of that in the immediate aftermath of the strike. Instead, he was struck with shock, his vision blanketed in smoke, he stood in silence waiting for someone to come over and tell him what had happened.

Eventually, neighbours began to come out.

Yasir asked them what was hit and they responded that it was the ‘house on the corner’.

He tried to wrap his mind around why the house would have been targeted. No one inside was involved in combat - Israel had no reason to attack it. 

But such thoughts quickly gave way to the immediate concern of what had happened to his family.

He headed over to the rubble of his house and with his relatives began looking for his loved ones, who he soon discovered.

“I saw my uncle holding my mother, God rest her soul...he was holding my mother and running... I ran after him but people held me back.

“At that moment I totally broke down, I don’t remember what happened next.”


Having lost his family and his home, Yasir was left with nothing of his old life.

“That house was my father’s house, God rest his soul, it means a lot to me, I was born and raised there, “ he said.

Rebuilding his house became a way not only of giving himself somewhere to stay but also of preserving the memory of his family.

Two years after the Israeli attack, the house was rebuilt on the site of the destroyed building.

“This place is my life, it represents all my memories with the family that I lost, thank God,” he said referring to the new building.

“There is a lot to remember about my mum, dad, brothers, and sister... every moment was a memory, every minute was a memory.

“I tried to get back a small part of what I lost.”

If replacing a building is a challenge, replacing a family is impossible, Yasir’s life continues regardless.

He has since married and had children and hopes that he can keep his family’s memory alive through them.

“I named my daughter after my mother, Basema, when I ask her where are your grandfather and grandmother, she points to their photos, 

“Their memory is always with us, will never be forgotten, how could I forget them and they are my family.”

Interview and pictures by Belal Khaled

Yasir al Haj has rebuilt the house destroyed by the Israelis
Yasir al Haj has rebuilt the house destroyed by the Israelis (TRTWorld)