Brick by brick: When the war against Hamas ends, rebuild Gaza

Palestinians inspect the destruction around residential buildings following Israeli air strikes in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 1, 2023, as fighting resumed shortly after the expiration of a seven-day truce between Israel and Hamas militants. (Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

After a tenuous few days of calm during the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas, the fighting has started anew in Gaza, with Hamas firing rockets and Israel responding with airstrikes. It’s not clear when the hostilities may stop again, only that at some point, hopefully in the near future, the war will be over and the explosions will stop.

At that point, whenever it may be, things will not and cannot simply go back to normal for either population, but particularly the millions of Palestinians who will have nowhere to go about the difficult task of rebuilding their lives. The thousands of bombs dropped as part of Israel’s offensive in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 murders of more than 1,200 Israelis have shattered whole swaths of Gaza, and there’s no moving forward without some path to meaningfully rebuilding.


Israel should come to realize that the only way out here is through ensuring some dignity for the Palestinian public after Hamas. The project of peace needs more than security and force. This was the broken promise of the Netanyahu government, which ultimately thought it could control Hamas and use it to some political advantage, and failed to heed extraordinarily clear warnings about the imminent attack.

Instead, the real path to security runs through empowering Palestinians to reject Hamas themselves, and for that to happen, there needs to be a Gaza for them to live in at all. With nearly 100,000 buildings damaged since the war began in October, large portions of the territory are practically uninhabitable. Even if enough housing could be shored up, the public needs hospitals, schools, shops. A public needs infrastructure to survive, and will turn to desperation in its absence.

The Gazan state won’t be able to rebuild because there is no Gazan state. Hamas has been in charge for more than a decade and a half with no elections, and is clearly uninterested in anything resembling governance. It must be rooted out definitively. In its stead, the rebuilding can be handled by a variety of actors, acting in tandem. These actors will have to include Egypt and Israel, which ultimately control access and can — and have — cut off the availability of necessary materials like concrete.

It should also include international partners that might lend a hand. Cash-rich Arab Gulf states, which are seeking closer ties to Israel (which the Hamas atrocity was meant to derail) should invest generous support for the reconstruction, which might be overseen or spearheaded by international organizations working in coordination with relief groups. The U.S. must also play a role.

It won’t be done in a day, or a week, or a month, or probably even a year. Massive amounts of rubble will have to be cleared first, and it’s unclear exactly where the Palestinian public will live while the process is ongoing.

The logistics will be incredibly complex and the tensions will inevitably run high; there will certainly be those that will argue that a rebuilding is a boon to Hamas, that Israel should simply let the destruction remain as a reminder of what Hamas wrought. But devastation and despair will not bring peace or security. When the war ends, and when Hamas is no longer in charge, Gaza must be rebuilt.