Haneen Yassin-Gaza

The colors of dry blood interfere with the rust of iron on the palms of Palestinian young man Maher Hassan to conceal tangled spots of burns, bruises and wounds caused by his work to "modify the flexures" of tons of iron bars extracted from the rubble of houses destroyed by the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza.

From time to time, Hassan surrenders to his pain, especially at noon. He gets a break to heal his palms with a worn cloth and sip a cup of bitter coffee before returning to what he calls "hard labor."

Hard labour
Hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip work in a rare profession that emerged a few years ago: recycling building materials for buildings and facilities destroyed by Israel during its repeated attacks on the Strip.

There are now special workshops specialized in modifying iron bars and converting concrete into small gravel, to be reused in the construction of buildings and roads.

Hassan begins his work as the sun rises in a remote area east of the central city of Deir al-Balah, strewn with giant piles of iron bars extracted from the rubble of dozens of houses and installations destroyed by Israeli raids during the 2014 war and recent escalation rounds.

The Palestinian worker uses a manual machine to adjust the flexures of the iron. He places a rusty rod inside a dedicated duct in that machine and moves his machine arm to press hard and adjust the iron warp areas.

Sharp iron bumps and high heat caused him to stay in the sun for long periods of injuries and burns to Hassan, but he does not care about it and continues to work.He is forced to this only profession that provides him with the sustenance of his four children and his wife, in the absence of job opportunities in Gaza and high levels of poverty and unemployment.

After about 10 hours of work, with a short break to eat, drink coffee and heal the wounds, Hassan ends his daily misery.

Hassan gets a daily wage of 50 shekels (about $ 14), barely enough to provide for his family's minimum needs, he told Al Jazeera Net.

Giant piles of iron rods extracted from the rubble of dozens of houses and installations destroyed by Israeli raids (Al-Jazeera)

Poverty is a key driver
In another workshop to convert concrete into small gravel, three workers share a mechanism called a "crusher" with concrete blocks to break them into tiny gravel, which is later used in the manufacture of building stones.

Before the blocks reach the "crusher," the young Yasser Qarinawi (27 years) under the hot sun to break large concrete blocks into relatively small pieces using a hand hammer, strength and great muscle effort.

Perhaps what drives Alqrinawi to work in this difficult profession as he tells Al Jazeera Net that he is the sole breadwinner for his parents and five brothers, his father is a worker who has been unemployed for years in light of the scarcity of job opportunities in Gaza, and is unable to work in such a difficult profession.

"Every day I smash large concrete columns with a hammer to make it easier to move and break them into the crusher," said the Palestinian.

"This is very hard work and it causes me severe pain in the joints, muscles and spine, but I can't find a substitute."

Grenawi, who works more than 12 hours a day, receives a meager 40 shekels (about $ 12).

Work in most construction materials recycling workshops in the Gaza Strip lacks any occupational safety potential, putting workers' lives at risk.

A career born of the siege
Alaa Nofal, a Palestinian who owns a building materials recycling workshop in Gaza City, says that his workshop employs 10 workers and has been working since 2009 to recycle the rubble of houses in an attempt to overcome the shortage of building materials in the Gaza Strip.

"Israel is greatly codifying the entry of construction materials into the Gaza Strip, especially after the end of the last war in 2014, so recycling workshops contribute to the provision of basic building materials, such as iron and gravel," Naoufel told Al Jazeera Net.

It is important to add new bars more often in construction work. Recycled bars are relatively weak and can not withstand heavy weights.

Gravel from crushers is used for paving, reinforced concrete, and building stones, says Nofal.

He pointed out that the recycling workshops are the result of the harsh conditions and the siege imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. Countries around the world cannot resort to the use of building materials previously used.

Modified iron rods are used in a limited proportion in the construction of concrete roofs as they are relatively weak and can not withstand heavy weights.

Limited uses
Regarding the possibility of risks due to the use of recycled materials in new buildings, says the General Manager of the Engineers Association for the examination of materials and soil Mohammed Sawalha to Al Jazeera Net that "recycled building materials must be used at a very small percentage of the total materials used in the facility."

"It is preferable to use these materials in agricultural roads and to make stones used in building walls that separate rooms," Sawalha said.

He notes that if new building materials are available, it is preferable not to use any percentage of recycled materials.

It stresses the need to conduct technical and engineering tests for all materials used in construction - whether new or recycled - in laboratories approved by the Palestinian Ministry of Works and Housing and compare them with the technical specifications required for each project.