Thousands leave home in besieged flooded Gaza

Thousands leave home in besieged flooded Gaza
Sun Dec 15, 2013 16:16:39

Heavy rains have flooded besieged Gaza Strip, forcing more than 40,000 people leave their homes.

The downpour that began late Wednesday was part of a storm that covered parts of the West Bank and occupied territories with snow, paralyzed al-Quds (Jerusalem) and left thousands without power.

Even Gaza with its milder coastal climate saw some snow, though lower-lying areas were mainly hit by flooding.

Rescue efforts were hampered by fuel shortages and rolling power cuts that have become more severe in recent months, since Egypt tightened a border blockade of the territory, suffering from a strict siege imposed by Israel since 2007.

Once the storm is over, "the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza," said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the main UN aid agency in the territory.

Gaza residents "must be freed from these man-made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this," he added.

In the low-lying areas of Gaza, water has been rising since heavy rains began late Wednesday, flooding streets and homes.

One of the hardest hit areas was Nafak Street in Gaza City's Sheik Radwan neighborhood, close to a rainwater reservoir.

Said Halawa, an area resident, said the reservoir overflowed Wednesday evening. By Thursday, water had poured into the ground floor of his two-story home where he and he and 41 other members of his extended family live, Halawa said.

The family called for help and was evacuated by boat from the upper floor. Halawa said he and his family were taken to a makeshift shelter in a neighborhood school. "We got some assistance, some blankets and some food, but I didn't save any of my belongings," said the 52-year-old taxi driver.

At another neighbor school, 30 families found shelter. Children slept on desks and on mattresses on the floor. Some of those at the shelter huddled around wood fires in open-air walkways outside the classrooms to stay warm.

In all, the flooding forced about 40,000 people from their homes, including more than 5,200 who were taken to safety in boats, military trucks or heavy construction vehicles, government officials said.

Residents of Gaza are blockaded by land, sea and air.

The International Red Cross and the United Nations have found the Israeli regime’s siege of Gaza to be illegal under international law.

In September 2011, five independent UN rights experts made a report to the UN Human Rights Council which said that Israel’s siege of Gaza amounted to collective punishment of the Palestinian people and was a “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law” under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Prominent political thinker Noam Chomsky has described the Gaza Strip as “the world’s largest open air prison.”


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