Storm exacerbates sewage crisis in Gaza, Dec 20, 2013
On 13 November, more than 35,000 cubic meters of raw sewage overflowed when the Zaytoun pumping station failed, affecting 3,000 nearby residents. Just as the mess was being cleaned up, the area was again inundated — this time with approximately twice as much waste — when heavy rains fell over the Gaza Strip between 11 and 15 December.
With power outages and pump shortages, the Municipality of Gaza estimated it would take up to two weeks to drain the water and clean the sewage off the streets.
According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the flooding affected 21,000 persons, including thousands who were displaced and sought shelter for days in schools or with relatives. Two persons died and 108 were injured, mainly in southern Gaza, OCHA said, in the worst storm the Middle East has seen in decades.
Ahmed Yaqubi, a water resources consultant at the Palestinian Water Authority, said that Gaza facilities were not able to handle such large quantities of rainwater. Continuous power and fuel shortages hindered efforts to pump water, leading to flooding in several areas — especially in Gaza City.
“Subsequently, recent flooding has had impacts on environment, health and economy in Gaza. For example, rainwater mixed continuously with sewage water, and a possible sanitation issue is raised because of that,” Yaqubi said.
Among the most immediate needs, according to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility and the Municipality of Gaza, are mobile water pumps and power generators — a number of which were damaged during last week’s storm — in addition to fuel and spare parts for repairs and maintenance. There is also a long-term need for expanded and more developed water facilities.
…an acute shortage of electricity in the Gaza Strip — caused by the closure of Gaza’s only power plant — pushed the territory’s 291 water and sewage treatment facilities onto backup generators. Sewage overflows have since been reported in several areas, and risks of overflow were high in others.
OCHA called the situation “one of the most serious energy crises in recent years, with potentially serious humanitarian ramifications” (“Gaza fuel crisis situation report,” 26 November 2013).
After Egyptian authorities closed down most of the tunnels that had allowed the entry of cheap fuel into Gaza over recent months, the power plant struggled to obtain fuel at an affordable price. It closed on 1 November and reopened 45 days later after donor funding. The running costs of private generators also shot up.
Some fuel continues to enter Gaza through the remaining tunnels, but estimates in November put the figure at less than 20,000 liters per week, down from nearly a million liters per day prior to June.
Power cuts over the last seven weeks have regularly lasted 12 to 16 hours each day, leaving many of Gaza’s almost 1.7 million residents without access to basic clean water, sanitation and hygiene, say aid agencies and human rights groups.
In addition to overflowing in the streets, sewage is being dumped into the sea in far greater quantities than before, and in lagoons and open channels. Even before the power crisis, 90 million liters of raw or partially treated sewage was being dumped in the sea daily, according to a United Nations report (“Gaza in 2020: A liveable place,” August 2012 [PDF]).
The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility urged international donors to support efforts to help Palestinians in Gaza during winter. Staff say they are trying to fix broken equipment but that spare parts are hard to come by because of the difficulty of moving goods from Israel into Gaza. They have started distributing some fuel to municipalities to run the most important services.
Before the storm, due to the power crisis, only 15 percent of Gaza’s population received water for domestic use daily. Twenty percent received it every two days, 25 percent every four days, and 40 percent every three days. When the water comes on, it is generally just for five to six hours.
The 25 small-scale desalination units used to provide water to approximately 160,000 Palestinians in Gaza are also affected by the fuel shortages; as a result, their production dropped by 75 percent.
Water is a delicate issue in Gaza, which has seen increasing pollution of the main aquifer through wastewater and seawater intrusion.
Amnesty International demanded that Israel immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip to allow the delivery of fuel and other essential supplies into the territory without restrictions.
“Since June 2007, when the Israeli blockade was tightened, Gaza’s energy, water and sanitation infrastructure has been inadequate to fulfill the basic rights of its inhabitants. They were already poor due to prior Israeli restrictions and decades of neglect,” the organization said.
“Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.” [source]
“Israeli Naval Forces stationed off Beit Lahia shore in the northern Gaza Strip opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats in 4 separate incidents while sailing between 600 meters and 3 nautical miles. Israeli naval forces also confiscated 24 fishing nets.” [Source: PCHR]
Israeli troops kill one, injure five across Gaza Strip
Dec 20, 2013
A Palestinian man was shot dead and five others were injured in a number of incidents across the Gaza Strip on Friday.
A Palestinian man was shot dead and five others were injured in a number of incidents across the Gaza Strip on Friday.
Jihad Hamad, 24, was shot dead, and an unidentified man was injured after Israeli soldiers opened fire near Beit Hanoun crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.
Gaza government spokeswoman Isra Almodallal confirmed the shooting, adding that they had approached the fence but details were still unclear.
In another incident, two others were shot and injured east of Khan Yunis, spokesman for the Gaza ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said. They were taken to the European hospital south of Khan Yunis with moderate injuries, he added.
Israeli forces also shot and injured two Palestinian men east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip earlier on Friday.
One of them, 23-year-old Mohammad Ayoub, was shot near the eastern cemetery and transferred to Kamal Odwan hospital, medical officials said.
Alray news, Dec 20, 2013:
Earlier on Friday, Israeli forces stationed near the border fence east of Jabalia and Khan Younis fired afternoon towards Palestinian youths, injuring three.
“Two youths in their twenties were moderately injured in the foot while near the border fence to the east of Jabaliya refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip,” sources from Kamal Odwan Hospital in Beit Lahia said.
While Israeli troops on the Khuza’a border of the southern city of Khan Younis shot and injured another Palestinian youth while near the fence. He was transferred to a local hospital.
Gaza border areas see frequent firings from the Israeli occupation forces. Farmers are the usual target of the firing incidents.
These three cases add to another five wounded as of early December.
According to Palestinian Center for Human Rights, on 14 December 2013, two farmers and a child were wounded in the strip when Israeli forces stationed east of Khan Younis’s Khuza’a village opened fire towards them.
On the same day, Israeli forces fired a number of artillery shells at open area north of Um al-Nasser Bedouin village, and northwest of al-Nada housing project, no casualties were reported.
On 15 December 2013, a farmer from Ezbet Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip was wounded when Israeli forces on the border opened fire at a group of framers who were 500 meters away from the said fence.
On 16 December 2013, another farmer, from Jabalia, was wounded in a similar shooting by Israeli forces along the eastern border of Jabalia. He was among a group of farmers who were about 600 meters away from the fence.
On 17 and 18 December 2013, Israeli forces fired from watchtowers stationed east of Beit Hanoun at a number of farmers, shepherds and bird hunters, who all turned away fearing of being shot.
Gazans Suffer Genocide under the Israeli-Egyptian Siege
At this time of year the mainstream media abounds with stories of how ordinary people across the world are preparing for the upcoming Christmas holiday. One story people will not hear about is the desperate plight of the 2 million people trapped within the Gaza Strip where malnutrition, darkness, cold and suffering abound.
The people of Gaza are being crushed under the Israeli blockade which severely restricts essential supplies coming into the strip. Israel refuses to allow building materials into Gaza meaning that people left homeless by successive Israeli military attacks cannot rebuild their homes. The number of food insecure people has dramatically from 44 % in 2011 to 57% in 2012.
The UN has been forced to halt building work on all but one of its 20 projects in Gaza due to the Israeli government’s ban on building materials. The UN building projects include 12 schools and a health centre. This has thrown over 5,000 Palestinians out of work.
“We are in now in the fourth week (in which) we are not allowed to bring in construction material,” Robert Turner, director of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said.
This has been compounded by the closure of the Rafah tunnels by the Egyptian army which has cut Gaza’s lifeline to the world following the military coup that overthrew the Morsi government.
…the Egyptian army’s actions have, “reduced the number of tunnels that were operational by about 95%. The price of importing goods from Egypt to Gaza has increased ten fold, according to one source associated with the tunnel industry.”
The tunnels used to bring up to 60-65% of its supplies.
At the beginning of November Gaza’s power plant was forced to shut due to a lack of fuel that used to come from Egypt via the tunnels.
The power cuts are affecting every aspect of life and pose a major threat to the health of the people. Water pumping stations have stopped working. Sewage treatment plants have closed. This has led to flooding. In Gaza City the district of East Zeitoun was recently flooded by 8,000 gallons of raw sewage which has caused illness amongst some children.
Professor Ilan Pappe said :
A genocide is taking place in Gaza. The inhuman living conditions in the most dense area in the world, and one of the poorest human spaces in the northern hemisphere, disables the people…
RICHARD FALK interview… Stealing Palestine
–by Stuart Littlewood, 16 December 2013
When it comes to Gaza where the present crisis has passed into a zone of desperation, the UN and world community are silent as if stone deaf to this deepening human crisis of survival.
After the Egyptian coup of July 3rd of this year, the subsistence regime evolved in Gaza is itself in jeopardy. The tunnel network has been substantially destroyed by Egyptian military action and the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt has been mainly closed, isolating the people, and creating emergency conditions due to fuel shortages that have made electricity only available in very limited amounts.
The results are horrifying: sewage in the streets, insufficient power to run machines needed to keep the terminally ill alive, fuel shortages that virtually preclude economic activity, and closed borders that seal the fate of 1.6 million Gazans. Long before this dramatic further deterioration of life circumstances, observers were calling Gaza the largest open air prison in the world.
…the UN has no independent capability, or ever will, to challenge Israel or to protect Palestinian rights. It is a case of geopolitical manipulation and Palestinian victimization. The wrongful appropriation by Israel of Palestine’s water, land, and energy resources has been a massive crime against the Palestinian people…
There was a promise made at Nuremberg that in the future the rules by which the Germans were judged would be applicable to all who committed state crimes in the future. This Nuremberg Promise has not been kept.
Geopolitical leverage enables Israel to defy the most basic principles of international law, and yet their leaders are not held accountable.
Israel has pursued a policy I describe as ‘the politics of fragmentation’ designed to undermine Palestinian unity, and it has been alarmingly successful. Oslo contributed to this end by dividing up the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C, by splitting the administration of Gaza off from the rest of Palestine.
The media has been largely compliant as have Israel’s powerful governmental friends, including the United Kingdom, US, and Canadian governments.
We can only imagine the horror of Christmas this year in Gaza for young and old alike: from life amid raw sewage to freezing cold, scarcities, desolation, and a sense that the world is elsewhere, indifferent to such acute suffering, such sustained injustice, such blind hate.
And yet also knowing many Gazans makes me believe that even in such dire circumstances there remains space for some laughter, and much love, and that such a spirit of resistance lives on among the children of this place haunted by the evils of our world. If present these days in Gaza it would likely make me feel a mystifying blend of sadness and inspiration.
At the very least those of us living in comfort should not turn our gaze away from the children of Gaza this Christmas: we should demand empathy from our leaders and be as personally attentive as possible, whether by commentary, prayer, donations, a compassionate scream! We should not allow these days of celebration and renewal to pass this year without moments of reflection on selfish joys and cheerful carols, as contrasting with the miserable destiny bestowed upon the innocent and abused children of Gaza
Let us look the children of Gaza in the eye if we can. And if we can’t, as I could not, seize the moment to reflect on what it means to be (in)human during this holiday season.
“Gaza and the West Bank have just experienced the worst winter storm in decades. A significant proportion of Gaza is now underwater. 10,000 people have been displaced from their home. MAP is working with local and international aid organisations to support the needs of Palestinians in Gaza.”
“To help the victims of the floods we have given mattresses, blankets and hygiene kits to help people clean their homes after the devastation. But we desperately need your help now so we can get more. 19/12/13”
£25 will allow us to carry on delivering aid to Palestinian children.
£50 could help us supply medicine, which has run out, to save the life of a premature baby in Gaza.
£100 could provide psychosocial support to a child who sees the daily violence of the occupation in the West Bank
We promise to use your donation to support the medical and health needs of the Palestinian people, wherever the need is greatest. –Updated: December 2013
Israel refuses to allow construction material into besieged Gaza Strip
Open Christmas Letter to Pope Francis on Gaza
Updates Gaza flooding… and what you can do!
Gaza flooding updates (Ma’an news)
Gaza flooding, blockade-manufactured crises
Gaza drowning …and under power and media blackout