Some look around in excitement and others shoulder a carpet or a chair and head inside. A few days after they were handed over the keys to their new homes, Palestinian families displaced by the Israeli attacks are still having a hard time believing that they are here instead of in damaged housing units or makeshift tents.
Some 320 apartments in Gaza are the courtesy of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), Turkey's leading state-run development aid agency. Local officials had formally delivered the apartments to 320 families over the weekend in an emotional ceremony.
An Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip three years ago had leveled homes to the ground or made them unlivable by inflicting heavy damage.
Turkey, a key ally of Palestine, is among the major donors of humanitarian aid to the enclave which is under an Israeli blockade. TİKA, which already delivers humanitarian aid packages, has undertaken the rebuilding process after the onslaught of the Israeli attacks that destroyed some 20,000 houses in Gaza and left nearly 100,000 people homeless. Nashwa Abu'l Ful, a 29-year-old mother of three, hails her new house and says she particularly likes the kitchen. Thanking Turkey, she says she still thinks "it is a dream."
"The places we lived before were not fit for humans and we had to move almost every month," she recalls.
Her husband, who sustained a head injury in the attacks, is unemployed and Abu'l Ful says their landlords were reluctant to lease them their homes because they were "poor."
The family, who depends on $285 they receive from the Social Works Ministry every three months, often lived in decrepit houses "swarmed with rats," she says, and paid a monthly rent of $114.
"Often, we used to borrow from my friends and relatives. We lacked even basic needs," she says. She remembers how she held back her tears in front of children while thinking about their future.
"At least, we won't have a house that is flooded in every rainfall or snowfall anymore. We will have more money for ourselves," she tells Anadolu Agency (AA).
Ibrahim Muhammad Ibrahim, 42, his wife and six children, used to huddle in a squalid tent before "good-hearted people" helped them rent a house. Finally, he has his own house.
"We are very happy today. We left behind a difficult life," he says, recounting how they tried to keep warm in their tents often infested with rats. Ibrahim works as a janitor but not everyone is lucky to have a job in the Gaza Strip where the unemployment rate is 46 percent.
According to U.N. figures, some 80 percent of Gaza residents who face chronic poverty depend on humanitarian aid.
The houses, located in the Wadi Gaza village south of the Gaza Strip, are 100 square meters each. Every apartment building hosts 16 flats.
Turkey, one of the main donors to the Palestinian territories and the most vocal defender of the rights of Palestinians who have long suffered from an Israeli blockade, is extending a helping hand to the region through TİKA.
The agency is behind a string of projects ranging from hospitals, housing units, and schools to an olive oil production facility for struggling farmers.
In the past 10 years, the Palestinian territories, particularly the Gaza Strip, have seen increasing development thanks to the hundreds of humanitarian projects by the agency, which provides aid to disadvantaged communities across the world.
TİKA, which from a little-known state apparatus has turned into a symbol of Turkey's humanitarian outreach, is behind a 180-bed modern hospital in Gaza and also runs six schools, which thousands of Palestinian students attend.
The agency also undertakes the restoration work of Ottoman-era structures in the Palestinian territories, which were part of the now-defunct empire.
Benefiting from a shared history with the Palestinians, Turkey maintains good ties both with the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah and the authorities in Hamas-led Gaza. The projects encompass the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. TİKA also plans to build a school in every Palestinian town. So far, six schools have been built, while existing schools were renovated and furnished with computer labs.
The students also benefit from scholarships, and TİKA also funds Turkish studies departments at Palestinian universities.
Al-Khalil Turkish School, located in the eponymous town in the West Bank, is touted as the most modern school in the city and hosts 550 students.
TİKA also built the Nuri Pakdil Girls School, named after a Turkish scholar, in Nablus, which is the second largest city in the Palestinian territories.
Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has suffered a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has deprived the enclave's roughly 1.9 million inhabitants of their most basic needs, especially food, fuel, medicine and construction supplies.
The Gaza Strip largely depends on foreign aid as the economy has stalled under the Israeli blockade, and apart from small industries, industrialization is almost nonexistent.
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