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Gaza Drowning …And Under Power And Media Blackout

By Countercurrents.org With Inputs From Eva Bartlett Of In Gaza Blog

16 December, 2013

 

Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced because of severe flooding.
(Eyad Al Baba / APA images)

According to the United Nations, over 10,000 Palestinians were displaced after a rare winter storm and torrential rains turned large swathes of the region into a “disaster area.” At least two people are dead.

“Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye can see. Areas around Jabalia have become a massive lake with two meter high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands,” UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said in a statement published by the Ma’an News Agency Saturday.

An Israeli blockade, imposed in an attempt to unseat the Hamas-led government, limits the import of everything from building materials to inexpensive fuel leaving Palestinians in Gaza with widespread food insecurity, a shortage of potable water and the inability to power their homes and businesses—a tenuous situation, that relief workers say was exacerbated by the current crisis.

Before the storm hit, the 1.8 million people living in the Gaza strip have endured daily blackouts of around 12 hours since the territory’s lone power plant was switched off last month due to a fuel shortage, Al Jazeera reports.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip recieved their first fuel shipment in over 45 days Sunday, after cries for relief from the torrential rains and unprecedented flooding were met with a temporary loosening of the Israeli blockade on the territory.

“We have distributed five thousand of litres of fuel to local pumping stations, but the situation is dire and with the flood waters rising, the risk of water borne disease can only increase,” Gunness continues. “This is a terrible situation which can only get worse before it gets better.”

“This is a serious disaster,” Isra Almodallal, a Hamas spokesperson, told The Electronic Intifada. “With the lack of fuel and electricity, the government is trying hard to help with limited resources. Unless the borders are reopened and the needed equipment is allowed in, it will be difficult for us to handle this crisis.”

According to Palestinian border official Raed Fattouh, Sunday’s fuel shipment was paid for by Qatar. Following Saturday’s plea for help, Israel temporarily lifted their seige and permitted the delivery.

“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this,” Gunness added.

“When all this is over, the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza.”

 

A member of the Palestinian civil defense paddles a boat as he evacuates a man and his children after their house was flooded with rainwater on a stormy day in the northern Gaza Strip December 14. (Photo: Mohammed Salem/ Reuters)

2 dead, 2200 in shelters across storm-ravaged Gaza Strip
Dec 15, 2013

Gaza Ministry of Health spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra in a statement Sunday identified the two dead as 21-year-old Hamza al-Amour, who suffocated to death while trying to heat himself at home, and 90-year-old Mahmoud Farajallah, who died after his house was flooded.

More than a hundred people were injured in storm-related incidents across the Gaza Strip as well, the statement added, though most of these injuries were minor.

The storm was the strongest the region had seen in decades and it revealed the decrepit state of the Gaza Strip’s aging infrastructure. Since 2006-7, the Israeli blockade of Gaza has severely restricted imports of concrete, making repair extremely difficult.

The power crisis also compounded the storm’s devastation, as in recent days electricity availability plunged from six hours a day to a mere one or two after electricity lines from Egypt and Israel into Gaza were downed soon after the storm hit the area.

In some areas electricity was cut completely for two days as cold water flooded up to half a meter in many places.

OCHA: Number of displaced tops 10000 in Gaza

Approximately 10,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to widespread flooding in the Gaza Strip, according to a report released Saturday evening by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The numbers of displaced dwarf earlier estimates, as they take into account both the thousands who have sought refuge in Gaza shelters as well as those who have sought refuge elsewhere.

The areas most devastated by the storm are “North Gaza and Gaza City where over 1,500 houses suffered damage due to water entering houses, damaging furniture and electricity networks.”

An infant died and 100 were injured in storm-related incidents throughout Gaza, the report said.

Schools throughout Palestine have been closed since Thursday, and according to OCHA 17 schools in Gaza have been converted into shelters, while five other schools have been rendered unusable due to flooding.

In Gaza, over 10 percent of the coastal enclave’s greenhouses and field crops were destroyed or damaged by winter storm Alexa, in addition to 50 animal pens, the report said.

“120,000 chicks and 200 heads of livestock died as a result of the weather.”

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said on Saturday that large regions of the Gaza Strip were a “disaster area” and called on the international community to lift the Israeli blockade in order to allow recovery efforts to proceed.

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said on Saturday that large regions of the Gaza Strip were a “disaster area” and called on the international community to lift the Israeli blockade in order to allow recovery efforts to proceed.

“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this,” he said in a statement sent to Ma’an.

Fuel shortages have caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt since early November, cutting off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents.

Until Sunday, the Gaza Strip had been without a functioning power plant since the beginning of November, when the plant ran out of diesel fuel as a result of the tightening of a seven-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel with Egyptian support.

The power station began operating Sunday after receiving a delivery of diesel that was purchased from Israel by the Palestinian Authority using funds donated by Qatar.

The plant was only reopened in 2012 after it was targeted by an Israeli airstrike in the 2006 assault on the Strip. The power plant generates around 30 percent of the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply, while the rest comes from Israel and Egypt.

Until July of this year, the tunnels to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory amidst the otherwise crippling Israeli blockade. The blockade has been in place since 2006, and it has limited imports and exports and led to a major economic decline and wide-reaching humanitarian crisis.

In 2011 and 2012, however, the situation improved, as the tunnels to Egypt witnessed a brisk trade following the Egyptian Revolution.

Gaza Strip energy officials have blamed Egypt for destroying numerous tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and Egypt in recent months. They also blamed the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority for charging taxes on fuel too high for Hamas authorities to afford.

Officials warn Gaza Strip on the verge of health crisis
Dec 15, 2013

The results of winter storm Alexa in Gaza will lead to a health disaster unless the world intervenes, a Palestinian medical official said Sunday.

“We are on the verge of a complete breakdown in the health sector, services, and civil institutes,” General Director of military medical services in Gaza Atef al-Kahlout said.

Al-Kahlout said he feared chest and skin diseases would run rampant as a result of constant exposure to sewage water and lack of medical supplies.

He called on countries worldwide to aid Palestinians in Gaza by providing medication and supplies.

During disaster-relief missions in the neighborhoods of al-Nafaq and al-Zaytoun, 81 people were taken to hospitals while others were treated on the spot, he said.

Al-Kahlout added that rescue teams brought 91 families from the neighborhoods to shelters as their homes became too dangerous to inhabit.

Spokesman for the Gaza ministry of interior Islam Shahwan called on Egypt to fully open the Rafah crossing to allow supplies and aid into Gaza.

Civil defense forces have been doing their best to deal with emergencies despite the fact that they lack 80 percent of the equipment necessary to perform their tasks, Shahwan said.

Gaza flooding, blockade-manufactured crises

UNRWA calls Gaza ‘disaster area,’ pleads for end to Israeli blockade

Dec 14, 2013

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said that large regions of the Gaza Strip are a “disaster area” and called on the world community to lift the Israeli blockade in order to allow recovery efforts to proceed, in a statement sent to Ma’an.

“Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye can see. Areas around Jabalia have become a massive lake with two meter high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands,” the statement read.

“Four thousand UNRWA workers are battling the floods and have evacuated hundreds of families to UNRWA facilities. Our sanitation, maintenance workers, social workers and medical staff have been working through the night and round the clock to assist the most vulnerable, the old, the sick, children and women,” the statement continued.

“We have distributed five thousand of litres of fuel to local pumping stations, but the situation is dire and with the flood waters rising, the risk of water borne disease can only increase. This is a terrible situation which can only get worse before it gets better,” it added, referring to major fuel shortages across the Gaza Strip that have dramatically worsened in the last few months.

Gunness also highlighted the need for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip in order to allow the region recover from the current crisis.

“When all this is over, the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza,” he said.
“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this,” the statement continued.
“And of course it is the most vulnerable, the women and children, the elderly who wil pay the highest price of failure to end the blockade.”

The Gaza Strip is currently under a state of emergency due to severe weather conditions caused by a historic storm front moving south across the Levant.

Fuel shortages have caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt since early November, as power plants and water pumps are forced to shut down, cutting off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents.

The Gaza Strip has been without a functioning power plant since the beginning of November, when the plant ran out of diesel fuel as a result of the tightening of a seven-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel with Egyptian support.

Until July of this year, the tunnels to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory amidst the otherwise crippling Israeli blockade. The blockade has been in place since 2006, and it has limited imports and exports and led to a major economic decline and wide-reaching humanitarian crisis.

In the last year, however, the situation had greatly improved, as the tunnels to Egypt witnessed a brisk trade following the Egyptian Revolution.

Gaza Strip energy officials have blamed Egypt for destroying numerous tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and Egypt in recent months. They also blamed the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority for charging taxes on fuel too high for Gaza Strip authorities to afford.

Thousands in Gaza shelters as blackouts cripple emergency response

Dec 14, 2013

The Gaza Ministry of Information announced Saturday that the numbers of residents staying in shelters in the besieged coastal enclave had hit 5,000 as streets and homes remain flooded in large swathes of the territory.

Separately, the Gaza Health Ministry said that the number of people injured in storm-related incidents over the last four days throughout Gaza had hit 96 on Saturday, after flooding hit dangerously high levels due to record rainfall on Friday.

Gaza’s civil defense force media spokesperson Muhammad al-Midna told Ma’an that civil defense teams had successfully evacuated 1,190 people from their homes since the beginning of the storm, in addition to pumping water out of flooded homes and rescuing cars trapped on flooded streets.

Al-Midna said that the hardest hit neighborhood was Nafeq Street near Sheikh Redwan, which was inundated with flood water and led to a dramatic rise in water levels in the surrounding areas.

Al-Midna added that the lack of electricity had exacerbated the difficulties faced by Gaza residents as it limited the ability of civil defense forces to pump water from flooded areas.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK

Gaza is drowning in rainwater and sewage. Israel’s seven year blockade and regular bombing means that the only power plant in Gaza can no longer function properly. After Israel bombed the structure in 2006, it refused to allow in concrete to repair it sufficiently.

On top of that, Israel’s siege means there’s no longer enough fuel to power it full-time. Palestinians in Gaza are living with six hours of electricity a day. The rest of the time, they can’t heat or light their homes, cook, run their fridges, or do whatever it is you’re doing now.

It’s winter now in Gaza, and cold. Live in that without heat. The lack of electricity means that the sewage treatment plants can’t function, and sewage has been pouring into the streets for about three weeks. Children have had to wade through it to get to school.

Recent heavy rains, including a massive downpour today, have added to the mess. Homes are being flooded, the streets are awash. The siege means that everything is scarce. Food prices have rocketed, vital medicines are at zero stock, hospitals are without electricity.

Two weeks ago, the UN’s special rapporteur for Palestine said Gaza was ‘on the point of catastrophe’. How much more catastrophic does it have to get before the international community imposes sanctions on Israel, whose policies are aimed at bringing Gaza to its knees? And when is the BBC going to report on the hell inside Gaza?

Gaza drowning …and under power and media blackout

Posted on December 13, 2013 by evabartlett

Photos and updates from Gaza paint one of the most dire scenarios the Palestinians locked in the Strip have faced, Israeli bombing campaigns aside.

For over a month Palestinians in Gaza have endured 18 or more hours/day power outages. Now, with unusually heavy rains, cold temperatures, Israeli-released torrents of water (suddenly opening of dams along the border with Gaza), and even snow, Gaza is under water, under siege, and people are suffering freezing conditions.

According on one international in Gaza, a baby has frozen to death in one of Gaza’s refugee camps.

Omar Ghraieb, from Gaza, writes:

“44 days without electricity! New emergency schedule started yesterday, electricity hours r downsized to 3 instead of 6, per day! Leaving Palestinians in Gaza with a 21+ hours of power outage a day. Add to this the horrible weather, constant rain, floods, wind, thunder & lightening!”

Omar Ghraieb

Israel ‘opens dams’ flooding Gaza Strip near Deir al Balah

Dec 13, 2013

“The Gaza Government’s Disaster Response Committee announced late Friday that Israeli authorities had opened up dams just east of the Gaza Strip, flooding numerous residential areas in nearby villages within the coastal territory.

The Gaza Strip is currently under a state of emergency due to severe weather conditions caused by a historic storm front moving south across the Levant.

Fuel shortages have caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt since early November, as power plants and water pumps are forced to shut down, cutting off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents.

Lack of diesel fuel is a result of the tightening of a seven-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel with Egyptian support.”

This Is Gaza: “Despite of their slim and few equipments , Civil defense members are still working dramatically in order to secure citizens’ homes and save the stricken homes from cold weather in Rafah and Khan Yonis in the Gaza strip. There is no doubt that siege impacts on their work dramatically where they face mobility problems with their vehicles due to lack of fuel , and power outages for long hours. However, they confirm that they will continue their work although the lack of resources , and the difficulty of circumstances.”


This Is Gaza: “Many Gaza houses were totally submerged with the heavy rains! Hundreds of people became homeless and were evacuated to temporary shelters in local schools. Gaza needs your help URGENTLY!”

Widespread flooding in Gaza forces thousands to flee homes
Dec 13, 2013

“The Gaza Strip was pounded by fierce winds and rain again on Friday as flooding reached dangerous levels in many areas, forcing thousands to flee their homes amid widespread power outages as temperatures plunged into the single digits.

The flooding was worst in the northern Gaza Strip, where hundreds fled their homes and water levels reached 40-50 cm in some parts, forcing residents to use boats to navigate their neighborhoods.

The Gaza government said in a statement on Friday that so far 2,825 people have been evacuated from their homes, reaching a total of 458 families.

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness:

“After so many years of the Israeli blockade, the public health system in Gaza was already acutely and chronically damaged, so the man-made problems inflicted on Gaza are compounded by the extreme weather conditions.”

[Ezz al Zanoon, a photographer based in central Gaza] stressed that the storm had compounded the already dangerous conditions Gaza residents were living under as a result of severe fuel shortages over the last few months.

“Electricity is only on for one or two hours a day,” he said, pointing out that in the days before the storm’s arrival daily electricity availability had dropped drastically from previous levels of six to 12 hours.

“People are suffering as they wait up all night for the electricity and water to come on,” he added, pointing out that water availability was dependent on the availability of electricity with which to pump it.

“There is no movement, no one goes out. Even those who work can’t go out.”

“The people hold Hamas and Fatah responsibly, both Haniyeh and Abbas,” he added.

“How could they let the situation of the children in this country become like this?”

“We know there is a siege (on Gaza), but there has to be a solution. Abbas is the most responsible, why doesn’t he do anything?”

The Gaza Strip has been without a functioning power plant since the beginning of the month, when the plant ran out of diesel fuel as a result of the tightening of a seven-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel with Egyptian support.

The plant itself was only reopened last year after it was targeted by an Israeli airstrike in the 2006 assault on the Strip. The power plant generates around 30 percent of the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply, while the rest comes from Israel and Egypt.

Until July of this year, the tunnels to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory amidst the otherwise crippling Israeli blockade. The blockade has been in place since 2006, and it has limited imports and exports and led to a major economic decline and wide-reaching humanitarian crisis.

In the last year, however, the situation had greatly improved, as the tunnels to Egypt witnessed a brisk trade following the Egyptian Revolution.

Gaza Strip energy officials have blamed Egypt for destroying numerous tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and Egypt in recent months. They also blamed the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority for charging taxes on fuel too high for Gaza Strip authorities to afford.”

State of Emergency in Gaza

By Mohammed Omer, Dec 2013

“It is cold, there is no power, and I am charging my computer using a car battery in order to get this message out. It is so cold in Gaza that everyone has cold feet and a cold nose. A new storm is hitting this besieged enclave. There is no electricity, and shortages of water, fuel, and vital services mean people just sit and wait for the unknown.

Tens of houses east of Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, in Khan Younes and Rafah are flooded with rain today. The sewage system cannot function and Gaza municipalities announced a state of emergency. Schools and most shops are shut, there is no traffic and few people are walking in the street.

Gaza City’s garbage trucks have been at a standstill due to the ongoing fuel shortage. I’d gotten used to the bright orange truck that usually passes by, sounding its horn, a sign for all my neighbors to bring out their garbage for collection.

Now the donkey is our only remaining hope. Since last week—when fuel supplies ran dry—the only sound one hears now is the click-click of their hooves as they pull their carts along the road at 4 a.m. By noon, they have collected all they can on their busy route. In Gaza’s Barcelona neighborhood, garbage containers are overflowing—a normal occurrence since fuel ran out.

We had no running water for the past two days—when there is no fuel, water is not pumped regularly into houses. The tank on our rooftop is empty. So we can’t even flush our toilet.

Fuel cannot enter Gaza through the supply tunnels recently shut down by Egypt’s new government. As a result Gaza’s water-treatment plant is at standstill, with raw sewage waist-deep in some streets and flooding into Gazan homes, bringing with it rats and disease.

Tonight, the smell of rotten sewage floods into my nose. I inhale and exhale the stink of rotten garbage. The night air is filled with this suffocating smell, and in the morning I can only hope that Abu Ghaleb will be around with his donkey and cart to try to clear away as much as he can.

It makes me wonder if U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is aware of Gaza’s situation. Would he find it acceptable if Israeli citizens lived in the same conditions as Gazans? Or don’t we in Gaza count as humans?”

Freezing and canoeing in Gaza
Fidaa Abuassi on December 13, 2013

“I haven’t heard from my family for 3 days, haven’t seen any of my siblings online anywhere, so I called (internationally since I could neither Skype or Viber). My mom said “habibti we are doing well Alhamdulliah. Don’t worry. We just didn’t have power for three days in a row, no internet, no water, nothing. It’s extremely cold and we are freezing. But we are better than others whose houses are drowning.” She then handed the phone to my dad. His voice sounded so desperate! He was repetitively saying “what could we do, dear!” Never “seen” him this depressed before!

Gaza is drowning today. You will see people kayaking and canoeing not the type of fun activities the world knows. Houses are flooded by water. People are freezing there. No power. No water. No heat. No fuel. This is a catastrophe. A CATASTROPHE. I need to do something to help. I felt so helpless that I wanted to call 911, Red Cross or Amnesty International. Anyone! I want to tell the world that Gaza is living an unspeakable disaster and in a bad need for your help. I cannot be silent. You cannot be silent.”

Flooding in Gaza’s Jabaliya Refugee Camp

Published on Dec 12, 2013, the IMEU:
“Unlike Manhattanites, though — or, more to the point, unlike their neighbors in Sderot — Gaza’s refugees have nowhere to flee when heavy rains, as in this video, flood their 25-mile occupied territory, blockaded by land, air, and sea.”

Photos of Gaza submerged: https://twitter.com/MuathHumaid

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