UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called for those responsible for the bombing of UN-run buildings and schools in Gaza to be held accountable as Palestinian families returned to their homes.
But most found there was nothing recognisable left standing.
"There must be a full investigation, a full explanation to make sure it never happens again. There should be accountability through a proper judiciary system," he said.
"I'm just appalled. I'm not able to decribe how I'm feeling, having seen this site of the bombing of the United Nations compound. Everyone is now smelling, this morning, still, it is still burning," Ban said.
Women and children gazed around in dismay as they came in sight of Salatin, trundling slowly along on overloaded donkey carts or packed into decrepit cars, over roads ripped up by Israeli tanks and explosions.
There was a fierce assault here for high ground overlooking the city of Gaza after Israel launched a ground offensive 16 days ago against Gazans.
A used Israeli army intravenous drip bag lay discarded in the road, and further on an Israeli army boot was half covered in the rubble of Nabil Sultan's flattened house.
Houses left and right were blasted by tank and heavy machine-gun fire. Some, like Sultan's, were pancaked by bombs from the F-16s of the Israeli airforce.
A dazed man wrapped in a blanket against the early morning chill said he simply could not find his house.
Israel-bombed UN schools
About 45,000 Gazans took refugee in United Nations-run schools during the assault, even Israel bombed them.
The UN compound where he spoke was hit by Israeli shells on January 15, setting a warehouse alight, burning tonnes of badly needed food aid and sending a massive column of black smoke into the air above Gaza City for hours.
Israel hit another four UN buildings -- schools where Gazans were sheltering from the fighting. More than 40 people were killed in one such attack, according to medics and UN officials.
Israel killed nearly 1,300 Palestinians with a quarter of children and wounded 5,300.
Israel lost three civilians hit by rocket fire in Israel and 10 soldiers killed in action, including four in "friendly fire" incidents.
Israel declared a ceasefire three days ago, matched a few hours later by Hamas.
One Gaza newspaper cartoon on Tuesday depicted a hand thrust up from twisted ruins, flashing a V for Victory sign.
"We've won the war. But we've lost everything," said the scrawny Sultan, with a thin smile. "This was my house," he shrugged, by a pile of smashed concrete and ripped bedding.
"If Haniyeh is all right, then all this is nothing," said one heavily veiled grandmother, waving an arm at the blasted landscape of her Jabalya district. She would not give her name.
Up on the Jabalya ridge to the east of the city, the reality is now one of total destruction.
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The owners of the homes are left to scavenge through the wreckage, retrieving whatever they can: mattresses, door-knobs, taps, doors, electrical switches.
The first efforts of what will be a mammoth clean-up job in these shattered districts has just begun.
Bloated corpses of dead horses and donkeys have to be collected and piles of rotting garbage removed before disease takes hold. Water and power, patchy before the war, have to be restored and impassable roads cleared of rubble and smashed cars. Shattered sewage pipes have to be uncovered and repaired.
At the Taha mosque, which locals said was hit at two in the morning, only the minaret was left standing. Adjacent buildings were scarred but mainly intact. Not everyone was so lucky.
Gaza's infrastructure has been left in ruins and the repair bill was estimated by the Palestinian statistics bureau to be about $1.9 billion.
Hamas said 5,000 homes, 16 government buildings and 20 mosques were destroyed and that 20,000 houses were damaged.