The Untold Cost of War: Two Gaza Entrepreneurs Who Lost Everything

Sami Haboush and Mohammed El-Madhoon lost everything in the recent Israeli bombings of Gaza. (Photo: WENN, included)

By Ahmed Dremly

“Sami Haboush: The store was our last hope”

A week before his forge was bombed, Sami Haboush, 32, left the hospital against medical advice to bury his father, who died of a stroke while working in Israel.

In addition, Sami could not afford to stay in the hospital: he had to work in his forge to earn a living for his family of 16.

He only stayed in the hospital for a week, although he should have stayed for more than a month to treat his gastrointestinal perforation and bacteremia.

“I had two options: I could stay in the hospital and get the treatment for free, or leave it and buy it myself,” Sami said. “But I was forced to choose a third option. I left the hospital and didn’t get treatment because I didn’t have any money.”

“My mother has heart disease; Her treatment costs 1,000 shekels ($280). When my brother and I work, we can afford it; if not, we can’t. Her hair fell out when she finished her treatment,” he explained.

The shop was his family’s only source of income.

“In 2005 I left school to work with my father in our shop. He wanted me to finish my studies, but I turned him down because he needed someone to help him,” Sami said.

“My father had a work permit in Israel, so I stayed in business. We needed this income to pay our debts.”

When Sami’s father was in Israel, Sami worked alone in the workshop until he fell ill and had to close it while he was in hospital.

On August 5, Israel launched a deadly attack on the besieged Gaza Strip, killing 49 people, including 17 children and 3 women. At least 363 people were injured, including 164 children and 59 women.

On the second day of the aggression, Sami worked as usual. Then he closed the shop and went to fix something for a customer. His cousin called him and urged him to go home without returning to the store.

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“At the same time, I saw people looking up at the sky towards my shop as if they were waiting for something,” Sami told The Palestine Chronicle.

When Sami asked a passer-by what was going on, he was told that the Israeli army was going to bomb the Khalifa building where his shop was located.

“I ran into the store, I wanted to die in it. I have no other livelihood. Many people had gathered 200 meters from the building. When they saw me running to the store, they stopped me. Then they took me home.”

When the bombing began, Sami and his mother hugged and cried.

“The store was our last hope. We never thought the building would be bombed,” he said.

“30 minutes later I went to my shop but it wasn’t there anymore. It had been completely destroyed. I couldn’t even find the door! My body started shaking and I cried loudly. Then I fell to the ground. People tried to take me to the hospital but I refused. I just wanted to stay away from the rubble of my workshop.”

The next day, Sami went back to the store and a partially destroyed hall fell on him, leaving him injured.

“My loss was $20,000. No one has compensated me so far,” he said.

“Now I borrow machines from my friends and work on the street in front of my house. I used to have an assistant but I couldn’t pay him. I work for half price; Despite my physical ailments, I prefer to work alone from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. than to call in someone I can’t pay.”

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Sami considered taking out a $5,000 loan to rent and open a business, but he didn’t because he had to pay back $200 a month while he had no money.

“We were fine but they turned our lives into pain. They stole the memories of 20 years. My heart was broken; I lost my hope.”

Mohammed El-Madhoon: “My center was destroyed twice in less than a year”

Mohammed El-Madhoon, 32, a director of the Center for Education and Technological Development, lost his center in the Palestine Tower when Israel invaded on March 6.

For Mohammed, this was the second time he lost his center in an Israeli bombing raid. The first time was at the Kuhail building on May 18 during last year’s 11-day aggression in the Gaza Strip.

Mohammed had a barbecue on the beach with his family on Friday.

“A lot of people started calling me. I replied to my cousin, who told me that an Israeli attack began by bombing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander on the sixth floor of the Palestine Tower.” Mohammed told The Palestine Chronicle.

“My center was on the third floor. It cost me $12,000. I went to check the building. It was extremely damaged; Most of the technical devices were broken. The place was no longer suitable for training. I was shocked because it was the second time my center had been destroyed in less than a year. It’s like breaking your hand twice,” he said.

“So during the aggression I suffered a financial crisis because I didn’t have any money. It was my only source of income.”

Mohammed started working as a mentor in various training centers in Gaza in 2012

“I started my job for about 200 NIS a month. Then I developed my skills and taught various courses. I rented small halls for conducting courses. Then I started earning about 800 NIS a month,” Mohammed said.

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Mohammed told The Palestine Chronicle that he got married in 2019. With the help of his wife, he rented an apartment to set up his first center.

“I continued to develop it for three years until the entire building was bombed in the 11-day aggression on Gaza in 2021,” he told us.

“I planned with my colleagues to flee into the building if war should break out. We couldn’t imagine that they would bomb the building because it only has training and education centers.”

Having lost his only source of income, Mohammed suffered from depression after the war.

Mohammed had five employees in the first center, but he could not take them to the second center because he could not pay their salaries.

“I only had one employee at the second center, and sometimes I couldn’t afford his $200 salary,” he said.

Mohammed said he was never compensated for his loss. “Young men need support, otherwise they develop a sense of failure. Someone might commit suicide while others would try to flee illegally through seas or forests, which is another form of suicide.”

“My shop was bombed and destroyed twice and no one supported me! I owe more than $5,000 due to the double bombing of my center. I don’t know how to pay my debts,” he admitted.

“Everyone has the right to safety”

The Gaza government has not yet released the latest cost of the war, but the Ministry of Public Works said the damage from the bombing of housing units was $5 million.

– Ahmed Dremly is a Gaza-based journalist and translator. His lyrics appear in We Are Not Numbers and Mondoweiss. WENN contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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