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Why Banksy covered Gaza Strip rubble with artwork

WATCH ABOVE: Banksy has left his mark on the Gaza Strip, covering rubble from last year’s conflict with his artwork and sending a message about life in the Palestinian territory.

Prolific street artist Banksy has taken his spray-painting skills to the Gaza Strip, highlighting the damage the Palestinian territory and its 1.8 million residents sustained during Israeli bombings last summer.

His message: “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination.”

“Welcome to Gaza. Well away from the tourist track,” the video caption reads.

In the 1 minute 56 second video posted on the mysterious British artist’s website, Banksy appears to enter Gaza via an illegal underground tunnel – the same kind of tunnel Israel’s military is intent on destroying, on the grounds that Hamas militants use it to smuggle arms.

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Banksy painted artwork amid the rubble left after Israeli bombings during the summer of 2014. Banksy via banksy.co.uk

The clip shows him emerging from the underground passage to a scene of concrete rubble and debris that has remained piled up in Gaza neighbourhoods since the 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas and other militant factions in the Strip.

“The locals love it so much they never leave (because they’re not allowed to),” reads another caption. It’s a reference to Israel’s blockade of the territory, which not only prevents most Gazans from leaving the territory but also limits what supplies and materials can transported in — including concrete needed for rebuilding efforts.

READ MORE: Malala Yousafzai donates Nobel peace money to rebuild school in Gaza

Oxfam said Thursday it would take more than 100 years to repair the damage to thousands of homes and buildings if the blockade isn’t eased. Gaza needs at least 800,000 truckloads of materials in order to rebuild, Oxfam says.

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“Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no-one is allowed to enter or leave,” Banksy said on his website. “But that seems a bit unfair to prisons – they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day.”

READ MORE: Banksy’s Balloon Girl transformed for #WithSyria campaign

He featured photos of three works of art.

One image brightening the rubble is that of a cat with a pink ribbon around its neck, batting at a ball of metal wire placed below the mural.

Artwork by anonymous street artist Banksy in the Gaza Strip. Banksy via banksy.co.uk

A Palestinian man in the video said the cat delivers a message “to the whole world.”

“[S]he is missing joy in her life. … The cat found something to play with. What about our children?”
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But Banksy, on his website, explained the purpose of the image another way.

“I explained [that] I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website – but on the Internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”
Photograph of Banksy’s street art in the Gaza Strip. Banksy via banksy.co.uk

Banksy did not indicate when he entered Israel and the Gaza Strip, nor how long he spent there working on his art and the accompanying video.

Last summer’s bombing campaign was a part of the Israeli Defence Force’s Operation Protective Edge — an air and ground campaign responding to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip amid fallout from the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli students and, in apparent retaliation, the kidnapping and burning alive of an Arab-Israeli boy.

Israel contends the strikes were necessary to eliminate the network of illegal tunnels into Gaza. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is emphasizing his hardline stance as Israel’s March election approaches.
More than 2,100 Palestinians died during the assaults, predominantly civilian. Seventy-three Israelis — almost all soldiers — lost their lives during the conflict.

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