STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Three months after the war in Gaza, rebuilding has barely started. Tens of thousands of people are homeless. Rubble lines the streets.
NPR's Emily Harris reports the slow return to normal, even for Gaza, causes anger and some innovation.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Angry men crowded outside the office of a construction company in Gaza City last week. They were trying to pay for cement. Each had been authorized through a complicated system endorsed by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations to buy materials to fix their war-damaged homes. This nascent system is meant to stop militants from using cement for tunnels. But here, things seemed to have gotten stuck. The company warehouse was nearly empty, of cement or customers. One man handed in his paperwork and picked up three bags of cement - all he needed, he said, for minor repairs. But when two men put a dozen bags on a donkey cart, the crowd outside yelled, those guys are cheating.
Mohammad Sobhey said he had tried for five days to pick up five bags of cement.
MOHAMMAD SOBHEY: (Through translator) It's not even about cement, it's about humiliation. Everyone wants to humiliate the Palestinians.
HARRIS: International donors have pledged $5.4 billion to rebuild Gaza, but little money has arrived yet, amid concerns about who's in charge or that there could be another conflict.
In the far north of the Gaza Strip, Yusef Shretah is not waiting for cement. The 33-year-old middle school dropout helps fellow Gazans build tiny houses out of wood.
YUSEF SHRETAH: (Through translator) There's no cement, but wood can come in.
HARRIS: These simple square homes are framed with new lumber. Old wooden pallet slats make walls. Each finished house is wrapped in plastic and protective fabric.
SHRETAH: (Through translator) I lost my own house in the 2008 war, so I rebuilt it with wood. After this war, people contacted me to build houses for them.
HARRIS: He has built more than 60 overall in Gaza, he says, a dozen in this area after the most recent war. One is for Zakayeh Abu Rashid. She used to live with her grown children in a concrete house here. Now she's staying in a shack while her sons build the wooden shelter, but nothing seems like home.
ZAKAYEH ABU RASHID: (Through translator) The real house we used to have was big enough to feel free inside. None of these feel like that.
HARRIS: Nineteen-thousand people in Gaza are still taking shelter in U.N. schools, but that's down from 54,000 the day after the war ended. Officials say people leave when they receive cash to rent or rebuild.
Another bright sign - Gaza's only power plant is operating again. An imported generator hit during the conflict is still not working and massive fuel storage tanks remain melted heaps of metal. Workers had patched-up enough to technically run the plant by mid-September, but it took until the end of November for Palestinian officials to find money for fuel. Now Gazans get about 12 hours of electricity a day, roughly the same as before the war. Plant manager Rafiq Maliha says it's not enough.
RAFIQ MALIHA: This is not normal, actually because - I mean, the normal situation is that they shouldn't have any electricity cut. It is simply destroying all - I mean - hopes for development.
HARRIS: Palestinian officials and international donors say this time they want to rebuild Gaza better than it was before the war. But they say there are too many variables - politics, money, the fragile cease-fire - to predict whether that might be possible, let alone, when.
Emily Harris, NPR News.
INSKEEP: You hear Emily on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
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