gaza boy destroyed house 248 88 ap.
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Thousands of Gaza Palestinians left homeless by Operation Cast Lead face a cold and rainy winter unless Israel allows building supplies in, a senior UN official said Monday.
But Israel has ruled out unrestricted shipments, fearing the material would be used by terrorists.
Thousands of homes in Gaza were damaged or destroyed during the IDF's fierce three-week winter offensive against Hamas, aimed at stopping years of rocket attacks.
Although the operation ended nine months ago, the homes have not been repaired because Israel does not allow raw materials to enter the territory, part of its two-year blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in Gaza.
"For the people in Gaza, life is miserable, life is not getting better, winter is coming, the rain is coming," Maxwell Gaylard, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said after touring a badly hit Gaza neighborhood.
The UN estimates around 20,000 Gaza residents were made homeless by the offensive. Some 3,500 homes were destroyed, another 2,800 were badly damaged and around 53,000 others sustained minor damage.
"When it rains, it rains on us," said Karima Juneid, 56, a Gaza woman living in a trailer close to where her family's four-story apartment building once stood.
Juneid is one of around 2,000 Gaza residents who still live in donated trailers and tents in heavily damaged areas. Most residents have crowded into apartments with relatives or have recycled old materials to fix their homes.
Wealthier Gazans have been able to buy smuggled concrete and glass on the black market at four times the pre-blockade price.
Juneid's trailer is crammed with three piled up mattresses where she and her sons sleep at night, while outside is a makeshift shaded area where they raise two chickens.
Abandoned by her husband, Juneid said she does not have enough money to rent an apartment.
In the neighborhood around her, some apartment buildings were reduced to a mass of concrete chunks and protruding metal. Residents use plastic to cover up smashed windows and rusty tin sheets to fill holes in the walls.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel would allow more materials in when it receives assurances that the goods will be used for civilian purposes, not by terrorists. But he said the "uncontrolled flow of cement and iron" into Gaza is "out of the question."
The UN has lobbied Israel for months to allow in building materials like cement to finish off some $80 million in UN construction projects. Gaylard said they repeatedly told Israeli officials that they would not allow Hamas to seize the materials. "We've given plenty of assurances," he said.