Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Gazans Back in War-Ravaged Jabalia ‘Shocked’ by Destruction

 Palestinians carry some salvaged belongings as they leave the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip after they returned briefly to check on their homes on May 31, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinians carry some salvaged belongings as they leave the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip after they returned briefly to check on their homes on May 31, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Gazans Back in War-Ravaged Jabalia ‘Shocked’ by Destruction

 Palestinians carry some salvaged belongings as they leave the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip after they returned briefly to check on their homes on May 31, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinians carry some salvaged belongings as they leave the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip after they returned briefly to check on their homes on May 31, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Mohammed Al-Najjar, a 33-year-old Gazan, said Saturday he was "shocked" and feeling "lost" as he returned home, only to find much of Jabalia refugee camp in ruins after an Israeli offensive.

"All the houses have been reduced to rubble," Najjar told AFP in Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip.

"You are lost, you do not know where exactly your house is in the middle of this massive destruction."

Israeli forces carried out a massive bombardment campaign in Jabalia in recent weeks, part of a fierce ground offensive in northern Gaza -- an area the military had previously said was out of the control of the Hamas movement.

"I was shocked by the extent of the destruction in the latest aggression on Jabalia camp," said Najjar.

In recent days, AFP correspondents have seen scores of Palestinians streaming into the area, trying to find their homes and salvage whatever belongings are left.

Men, women and children were walking through streets where their houses once stood, now full of grey concrete slabs.

Charred furniture, beds and mangled iron doors littered almost every street in the camp, an area once bustling with activity and home to more than 100,000 people, according to UN figures from before the war.

Many families carried their belongings on donkey carts, while others walked with beds and mattresses on their heads.

"We have no other place other than our homes," said Suad Abu Salah, 47, who has also returned after having fled the area earlier on in the Israel-Hamas war, now nearing its eighth month.

But "Jabalia has been wiped off the map," she said.

The war was sparked by Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Gunmen also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,379 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

- 'Stay on our land' -

Despite the destruction, Najjar said people were "determined" to return to the neighborhoods they had left to avoid the fighting.

Residents were willing to "set up tents and temporary shelters in the middle of the rubble", he said, even though "there's fear, fear that the (Israeli) occupation might come back."

"But we will stay on our land. We have nowhere else."

On Friday the Israeli military announced it had completed its mission in eastern Jabalia, where it had previously said Hamas had regrouped.

On Saturday Jabalia residents said they could still hear constant gunfire and artillery shelling from the east.

Fresh fighting erupted in the north in early May, around the same time Israeli troops took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, on Gaza's southern border with Egypt.

During the latest operation, Israeli forces in Jabalia had retrieved the bodies of seven hostages, and last month the military reported "perhaps the fiercest" fighting there since the start of the war.

Mahmud Assaliyah, 50, said "houses have been torn apart and entire apartment blocks have been completely destroyed in Jabalia."

"There's not a single house that has not been targeted by the Israeli occupation army."

He has returned to find his house, too, had been flattened.

"Cement pillars have fallen, walls have been destroyed, furniture has been scattered, burnt down and torn apart," Assaliyah said.

Abu Salah said many residents are tired of being displaced and just want to stay put, whatever happens.

"We want to live like other people in the world," she said.

"We need a solution and an end to this war, so that we can live in peace."



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Who is JD Vance? Things to Know about Donald Trump's Pick for Vice President

Trump's pick for Vice President, US Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) arrives on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum on July 15, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Getty Images/AFP)
Trump's pick for Vice President, US Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) arrives on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum on July 15, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Who is JD Vance? Things to Know about Donald Trump's Pick for Vice President

Trump's pick for Vice President, US Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) arrives on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum on July 15, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Getty Images/AFP)
Trump's pick for Vice President, US Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) arrives on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum on July 15, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Getty Images/AFP)

Former President Donald Trump on Monday chose US Sen. JD Vance of Ohio to be his running mate as he looks to return to the White House.

Here are some things to know about Vance, a 39-year-old Republican now in his first term in the Senate:

Vance rose to prominence with his memoir

Vance was born and raised in Middletown, Ohio. He joined the Marines and served in Iraq, and later earned degrees from Ohio State University and Yale Law School. He also worked as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.

Vance made a name for himself with his memoir, the 2016 bestseller "Hillbilly Elegy," which was published as Trump was first running for president. The book earned Vance a reputation as someone who could help explain the maverick New York businessman’s appeal in middle America, especially among the working class, rural white voters who helped Trump win the presidency.

"Hillbilly Elegy" also introduced Vance to the Trump family. Donald Trump Jr. loved the book and knew of Vance when he went to launch his political career. The two hit it off and have remained friends.

He was first elected to public office in 2022

After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Vance returned to his native Ohio and set up an anti-opioid charity. He also took to the lecture circuit and was a favored guest at Republican Lincoln Day dinners where his personal story — including the hardship Vance endured because of his mother’s drug addiction — resonated.

Vance's appearances were opportunities to sell his ideas for fixing the country and helped lay the groundwork for entering politics in 2021, when he sought the Senate seat vacated by Republican Rob Portman, who retired.

Trump endorsed Vance. Vance went on to win a crowded Republican primary and the general election.

He and Trump have personal chemistry

Personal relationships are extremely important to the former president and he and Vance have developed a strong rapport over years, speaking on the phone regularly.

Trump has also complimented Vance’s beard, saying he "looks like a young Abraham Lincoln."

Vance went from never-Trumper to fierce ally

Vance was a "never Trump" Republican in 2016. He called Trump "dangerous" and "unfit" for office. Vance, whose wife, lawyer Usha Chilukuri Vance, is Indian American and the mother of their three children, also criticized Trump’s racist rhetoric, saying he could be "America’s Hitler."

But by the time Vance met Trump in 2021, he had reversed his opinion, citing Trump’s accomplishments as president. Both men downplayed Vance's past scathing criticism.

Once elected, Vance became a fierce Trump ally on Capitol Hill, unceasingly defending Trump’s policies and behavior.

He is a leading conservative voice

Kevin Roberts, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, called Vance a leading voice for the conservative movement, on key issues including a shift away from interventionist foreign policy, free market economics and "American culture writ large."

Democrats call him an extremist, citing provocative positions Vance has taken but sometimes later amended. Vance signaled support for a national 15-week abortion ban during his Senate run, for instance, then softened that stance once Ohio voters overwhelmingly backed a 2023 abortion rights amendment.

Vance has adopted Trump's rhetoric about Jan. 6

On the 2020 election, he said he wouldn't have certified the results immediately if he had been vice president and said Trump had "a very legitimate grievance." He has put conditions on honoring the results of the 2024 election that echo Trump's. A litany of government and outside investigations have not found any election fraud that could have swung the outcome of Trump's 2020 loss to Democratic President Joe Biden.

In the Senate, Vance sometimes embraces bipartisanship. He and Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown co-sponsored a railway safety bill following a fiery train derailment in the Ohio village of East Palestine. He's sponsored legislation extending and increasing funding for Great Lakes restoration, and supported bipartisan legislation boosting workers and families.

Vance can articulate Trump's vision

People familiar with the vice presidential vetting process said Vance would bring to the GOP ticket debating skills and the ability to articulate Trump’s vision.

Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative activist group Turning Point USA, said Vance compellingly articulates the America First world view and could help Trump in states he closely lost in 2020, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, that share Ohio’s values, demographics and economy.