On Tuesday 30 August 2022 the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS) hosted an online Symposium entitled: "The Gaza Strip After 15 Years of Blockade and Five Wars: Voices from Within".

The symposium began with an opening speech by Dr. Ghassan El-Kahlout, Director of CHS. This was followed by a presentation entitled: "Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip: Continuous Destruction and Timid Reconstruction", delivered by Dr. Mazen Al-Ejlah - a Lecturer in Economics, based in the Gaza Strip. Next was a presentation by Engineer Salah Abdel Latif Taha – CEO of RAI Consulting CEO - entitled "Assessment of the damage after the military operation on Gaza and its impact on the infrastructure". The third presentation on "Psychological Effects of Psychological Trauma in the Gaza Strip: Wounds never heal" was delivered by Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, who serves as the General Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.  Finally, a presentation on "The Effects of War on the Psychological and Social Conditions of Women and Children" was delivered by Mrs Reem Fraina, Director of the Aisha Association for the Protection of Women and Children in Gaza.

In his opening remarks,Dr. Ghassan El-Kahlout gave an overview of the scene in the Gaza Strip and explained that the Strip is an isolated area covering an area of 365 square kilometers, with a population of more than two million, and it has been subject to Israeli occupation since 1967. In June 2007, the Israeli occupation imposed a blockade with the closure of air, land, and sea borders in what is known as the establishment of the world's first large-scale open prison. Under this blockade, the Israeli entity restricted the freedom of movement and movement of citizens and imposed strict restrictions on travel between the Strip and the West Bank, and travel from the Strip to the outside world, while preventing the entry and exit of goods except to a minimum, and controlling access to the Strip's lands, territorial waters, and airspace.

In his presentation, Dr. Mazen Al-Ejlah focused on the process of rebuilding the Gaza Strip and its continuous destruction. Dr Al-Ejlah noted that talking about the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in its broad sense not only means the damage inflicted on the Strip because of military operations but also includes the severe damage because of the blockade on the means of production. He pointed out that the Gaza Strip is still subject to the Israeli military colonial occupation, which means that there is an entire system practiced by the occupation revolving around many obstacles manifested in the wide, deep, and comprehensive siege for a decade and a half until now, which led to describing the Gaza Strip into a fragile society in the broad concept of fragility. Thus, this leads to the saying that the Gaza Strip cannot be placed within the framework of the post-conflict phase.

Engineer Salah Abdel Latif Taha, presented an assessment of the damage that afflicted the sector after the 2022 military operation, and the impact of the latter on the infrastructure. He pointed out that the recent military aggression was not the first but was preceded by several attacks that accumulated damage and made it more difficult and complex to address. He mentioned that the recent aggression targeted all the governorates of the Gaza Strip represented in Rafah, Khan Younis, Al-Wusta, Gaza City, and North Gaza. He explained that the infrastructure sectors have been greatly affected since the siege began on Gaza in 2007, and then the damage accumulated with the start of the devastating aggression launched by the Israeli occupation on Gaza in 2008-2009. These aggressions affected many homes, facilities, and economic establishments, some of which have not been reconstructed until today, especially economic and productive facilities.

Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei highlighted the increasing pressure and psychological trauma of the population of children and adults due to recurring wars and the resulting daily economic pressures. Dr Abu Jamei pointed out that the social and psychological conditions are difficult and complex, given the long-term occupation and siege imposed on Gaza, and life problems related to the lack of electricity and energy problems, in addition to the repercussions of the Palestinian division, the huge number of refugees in Gaza, and the high levels of poverty and unemployment. He added that due to the years of siege, the Covid-19 pandemic had a severe impact on the health sector and on the social and psychological situation in Gaza. He stressed that the most important means by which the residents of the Gaza Strip can overcome psychological and social difficulties is the ability to get support from the community, which has been greatly affected by the pandemic and the economic challenges that the community has been going through for a long time.

In her presentation, Mrs. Reem Fraina stressed that wars and poverty in Gaza have led to many psychological problems, family violence, depression, and suicide attempts. She added that the recurring wars in Gaza led to the loss of protection in many cases and exposure to violence due to the events of the war. She explained that 75% of the women who responded to the survey conducted by the Aisha Association stated that they were exposed to violence during the war.

In an engaging question-and-answer session, the panelists entertained questions on: the role of the government in the Gaza Strip internally and internationally and how they responded to these events, and about its dealings with the Israeli government; and whether there is contact between the government in Gaza and other governments. In addition, questions were raised about local coping mechanisms for these stresses and the availability of programs to address post-war trauma and psychological effects. Questions also touched on humanitarian work, external grants, the role of international organizations, and the political and security situation in the Gaza Strip.

Overall, the symposium included a comprehensive set of interdisciplinary academic perspectives and addressed a range of topics related to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, and the population's strategies for coping with these difficult conditions, including the psychological trauma experienced by the population. It also included an assessment of the damage following the recent military operation and the repercussions of the blockade on the economy, society, and daily life of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Finally, the symposium sought to contribute new analytical insights and practical steps forward that could enhance humanitarian and reconstruction strategies and provided a range of useful perspectives and insights to relevant stakeholders in Gaza.