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Israeli Attacks In Gaza Crush Family's Nut Business


This cease-fire came amid escalating criticism of Israel from its own allies. The United States, among other, supports Israel's right to defend itself, but President Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, told us yesterday that too many civilians have been killed.

SUSAN RICE: There have been a number of instances over the last couple of week that have given us grave concern including a strike near a U.N. school that resulted in the deaths of civilians who were sheltering there. The fact of the matter is that too many civilians have found themselves in the crossfire in places that are meant to be safe.

GREENE: Aside from the deaths on both sides, there's an immense economic costs on both sides, as well. Israel suffered damaged buildings and lost tourism. We just heard about ruined neighborhoods in Gaza. NPR's Emily Harris reports from Gaza City on one family's losses.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: The Sukar family of Shujaiyeh, Gaza made its money selling nuts. Now Mohammad Sukar climbs into a van torn by shrapnel, full of broken boxes of inventory - cashews, almonds, watermelon seeds fall through his fingers. Across the street, the roasting factory is a pile of broken equipment now. Smoke smelling faintly of cashews rises above the mess.

(Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: We were preparing for Eid, Mohammad Sukar says, referring to the major Muslim holiday that passed last week. That's one ton of cashews gone. It's not just the family business that was crushed by days of Israeli attacks. All seven sons of the Sukar family lived on this block. All seven of their homes are damaged, some beyond repair -Mohammad Sukar.

: (Through translator) Like almost all families here, we started building a house for the oldest son and then the second house for the next and so on.

HARRIS: Dozens of Sukar family members are now sharing a two-bedroom rental apartment in a different part of Gaza City. Family patriarch and company founder, Jabar Sukar, estimates his losses are at least a couple million dollars.

JABAR SUKAR: (Through translator) I thought this business would be for my children and their children. Now I don't know what to do. I pray. I wait for compensation, but, of course, no one will ever compensate us for this.

HARRIS: Jabar Sukar is not an enemy of Israel. He respects Hamas, he says, but flew the yellow flag of Fatah, Hamas's rival party, above his Gaza home. He speaks and writes Hebrew fluently. He worked in Israel for decades. He even watches Israel TV news. Robbi Wachs, an Israeli friend made through importing nuts and other food stuffs, called Jabar Sukar during the war to check on him.

ROBBI WACHS: I called him before the Israeli army entered the Gaza Strip, and he told me that the area where he was living was bombed and two kids of the family - I think it was his brother-in-law - kids of his brother-in-law were killed. And for the first time, I heard him crying.

HARRIS: It hasn't been the last time the 64-year-old man has teared up this month.

J. SUKAR: (through translator) People have come to give us help, coupons for groceries, a bottle of water. I used to give away $25,000 in charity a year. I've never been the one that needed other people's money.

HARRIS: He folds a tissue and carefully wipes his nose.

J. SUKAR: (Through translator) I'm not that good at politics, but this is too much. What Israel has done is really too much.

HARRIS: Last time Hamas and Israel fought a ground war five years ago, international donors pledged $4 billion to help rebuild the Gaza Strip. It was slow going, and this time, a Palestinian authority deputy prime minister estimates reconstruction costs above 6 billion. Sukar's son Mohammad, staying with a friend, says the family has not had time to even think about if or how to rebuild their business.

: (Through translator) We're busy only thinking we made it. We survived alive. Later, we will talk about these things.

HARRIS: Besides the family members the Sukar business supported, more than a dozen workers are out of jobs. Jabar Sukar says he owes and is owed tens of thousands of dollars on company contracts, but right, now he only has a few hundred in the bank. Emily Harris, NPR News, Gaza. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.