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Gaza’s main bookshops bombed to ground by Israel: ‘It was like my soul’

‘Books are my life,’ Samir Mansour says

Clea Skopeliti
Friday 21 May 2021 11:15 BST
Samir Mansour’s bookshop was destroyed by an Israeli air strike on Tuesday morning
Samir Mansour’s bookshop was destroyed by an Israeli air strike on Tuesday morning (Screenshot)
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Two of Gaza City’s most beloved bookshops have been razed to ground following Israeli military air strikes.

Gaza’s largest bookshop, owned by Shaban Aslim, was destroyed by an air strike earlier this week.

Mr Aslim spoke of the work he put into creating his store in an interview with Middle East Eye, saying: “This was my dream. It cost me so much.

“I stayed up long nights. I stopped eating so that I could afford to open the shop,” he said in tears.

Although the blockaded city’s biggest, Mr Aslim’s bookshop was not the only one to be bombed this week.

Samir Mansour, 53, received a phone call from the military at 6am on Tuesday asking if he was in his shop, about a mile away from him home, NBC reports.

After confirming he was not, the local institution was blown up, reducing a building that once housed “happy and loving memories” to a pile of rubble.

The Israeli military was contacted for comment.

Mr Mansour founded the bookshop, which also published stories and books by local authors, 21 years ago.

“The bookstore was like my soul,” Mr Mansour told the news channel. “Books are my life.”

A ceasefire was agreed on Thursday after 11 days of attacks, which unleashed the heaviest fighting seen since 2014. Israel’s bombing campaign has killed more than 230 people, including 65 children. Palestinian rockets attacks have killed 12 in Israel.

There are hopes that the Mr Mansour’s bookstore may be rebuilt with donations after an online fundraiser was set up, managed by the non-profit organisation Reprieve.

A post to the bookshop’s Instagram page laments the loss of the sense of community the store offered to people in Gaza. It reads: “What did we lose by losing the library?

“We lost the happy and moving memories and situations that our day was not without. We lost the stories and stories that housed the corners, the whispers and wishes of the children who used to come to visit us eager to carry whatever their innocent eyes fell on, for we lost the aged smell of paper and the old thick covers that certain readers are looking for! The smell of coffee that was prepared on a daily basis and incense to welcome you.

“We lost the faces of the books, hundreds of thousands of valuable and irreplaceable books, which were not easy to bring into besieged Gaza. We lost the steps of passersby back and forth from students, adults and children. We lost a lot, friends!”

Palestinians gathered in Gaza’s streets in the early hours of Friday morning, waving flags and setting off fireworks as the ceasefire came into effect at 2am.

Muslims in both Israel and Gaza also celebrated last week’s lost Eid al-Fitr by gathering in mosques to offer prayers and meeting at one another’s homes to feast.

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