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Tue. Mar 5th, 2024

In a workshop in the war-torn and besieged Gaza Strip, Ibrahim Shouman is bringing old brass stoves back to life, giving hope to displaced people deprived of gas for cooking.

With a squeeze of pliers, a new wick, and a refill of homemade fuel, a flash of fire miraculously begins to crackle.

“People have gone back to the old times and are bringing their brass camping stoves for repair because there is no gas or fuel available,” Shouman told an AFP journalist in Rafah in the south of Gaza, near the border with Egypt.

The conflict was triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities, and saw abut 240 hostages back to Gaza.

Israel has responded with a military offensive that has reduced much of Gaza to rubble and killed at least 17,997 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled northern Gaza due to relentless bombardment and a ground invasion by Israel, leaving their belongings behind.

The civilians hoped to be safer in the south, but the Israeli military has progressively extended its strikes across the tiny coastal territory in its war aiming to destroy Hamas.

  • Not even firewood –

Vast areas of Gaza have been devastated and the UN estimates 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced, facing dire shortages of food, fuel, water and medicine.

“People have been searching all over for firewood, but it’s no longer available,” Shouman said. “They would have to buy it for a higher price, and people have very little money left.”

In his workshops, clients wait patiently as he rubs, twists and adjusts parts of decades old stoves’ pistons, burners and fuel tanks.

“These camping stoves were used 100 years ago, this is how far we’ve regressed,” said Adnan Abu al-Aish, 55, who has been desperately searching for a way to cook his meagre rations of semolina and vegetables.

With a shortage of kerosene, Shouman fuels the stoves with a mix of motor oil and home heating oil.

“There is diesel available but it’s very hard to find,” he said. “A liter costs around 30 to 35 shekels (7.5 to 8.7 euros) and you need to spend an entire day searching for it.

“There isn’t even firewood, people are searching for pieces of cardboard thrown on the ground,” he added. “One has to make do.”

Mohammed al-Malahi also brought his old stove, which he said belonged to his great-great-grandfather, saying: “What can we do? We need it to create fire and cook.”

Shouman said that, in these dire circumstances, the trusty old stoves “get the job done”.

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©️ Agence France-Presse

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