The latest round of hostilities between Israel and Gaza took its toll on lives, homes and dreams. Media reports tend to focus on the stories of those killed or injured. This is the story of one Palestinian resident of Gaza who was “fortunate” enough not to suffer direct physical harm, but is one of countless people paying a different kind of price. Mahmoud Said Al Nakhaleh, 29-years-old from Gaza City, lost his life’s work in the blink of an eye when Israel bombed the six-story building that housed his women’s clothing boutique in central Gaza City.
Four years ago, Al Nakhaleh opened his boutique, Samra, on the city’s main street, and it became a successful retail business. On Saturday night, just ahead of the start of Ramadan and the holiday that marks its end, Eid Al-Fitr, when people tend to shop for new clothes, Al Nakhaleh lost his property, his investment, and his livelihood in one fell swoop.
“We were working in the store, getting ready for the holiday. I never once thought anything like this could happen,” Al Nakhaleh told Gisha’s field coordinator, Mohammad Azaiza. “No one contacted us to tell us to leave the store. We ran away when we heard the warning missile hit the building. We didn’t take anything with us. Within minutes the building turned into rubble. Years of work disappeared in a minute.”
Personal documents and cash that were in the store at the time were also destroyed. Al Nakhaleh estimates that merchandise worth tens of thousands of dollars, which was on the shop floor at the time of the bombing, was lost, along with $40,000 worth of brand new stock purchased for Eid Al-Fitr that was still in storage.
The boutique had been the sole source of income for both Al Nakhaleh and his two employees, all of whom are now unemployed. Other offices located in the same building were also demolished. “There are organizations that provide care for orphans, educational centers, media agencies. Why bomb them? Even the Red Cross told us no one had warned them that the building was going to be bombed,” said Al Nakhaleh.
Now Al Nakhaleh is trying to decide what to do next. “I was married recently and I live in a rental. Everything I had is gone and I can’t get it back. I don’t know what to do,” he admits. “I call on the world to take action to stop the firing on civilians in the Gaza Strip.”