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Gaza bookshop destroyed in Israeli air strike reopens

The newly reopened Samir Mansour bookshop in Gaza; the original site was destroyed by an Israeli air strike during last year's war between the Jewish state and Hamas
— Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

A renowned bookshop in Gaza reopened Thursday, nine months after it was flattened in an Israeli air strike during last year's conflict between the Palestinian enclave's rulers Hamas and the Jewish state.

The new Samir Mansour bookshop, funded by an international donor campaign, stands some 200 metres from the original site, which was destroyed by an Israeli air strike on May 18 last year in the Rimal district in the west of Gaza City.

The bookshop was a go-to for everything from school texts to the Koran to Arabic translations of European literary classics.

"It is a historic day," owner Samir al-Mansour told AFP on Thursday. "I am very happy that we have been able to reopen the bookshop," he added.

The new bookshop is spread across two floors and covers 1,000 square metres, stocked with 400,000 books -- approximately four times the volume held by the old facility -- at a cost of $350,000, according to Mansour.

Hundreds of people, including writers and the Palestinian Authority's culture minister Atef Abu Seif, witnessed the reopening.

"The Israeli occupation can demolish a building... but it cannot break the will of the Palestinians," Seif said.

The bookshop first opened its doors 30 years ago and was considered the oldest and the biggest in the Gaza Strip.

The conflict last May in the long-blockaded Gaza Strip came after Israeli police stormed Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque in response to worshippers throwing rocks and explosives.

Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas fired rockets into Israel, which responded with intense air strikes against the coastal enclave during an 11-day war in which more than 250 Palestinians died, while 14 lost their lives on the Israeli side, according to UN figures.