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Storm disaster in Gaza 'man-made'
Published Tuesday 17/12/2013 (updated) 30/12/2013 10:30
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A neighborhood in Gaza over the weekend (MaanImages).

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- As thousands in the Gaza Strip remain displaced and streets across the coastal enclave are still flooded Tuesday, it is increasingly clear that the devastation caused by storm Alexa was not a purely natural phenomenon.

Emergency response crews have been crippled by a lack of electricity to pump water and a lack of fuel to operate generators. But these conditions of scarcity are not a result of the storm. They were a fact of life even before the rain started falling, due to the Israeli-led siege and the severe limitations placed by Israel on imports and exports.

The severity of the storm’s effects and the seven years of siege the region has endured are connected by a near-total economic blockade that has led to a slow but steady collapse of infrastructure as well as a deeply weakened capacity for emergency response, a United Nations official charged Sunday.

"Long term de-development of Gaza is the context in which (the storm) occurred," Chris Gunness of the UN's Palestine refugee agency UNRWA said in an interview.

"It's fairly obvious that it's a combination of man-made problems and natural problems" that produced the latest disaster in Gaza, Gunness added.

He pointed out that despite the tremendous amount of work being done to relieve the crisis, it is an "overwhelmingly grave situation."

"Before the rains, there was sewage flooding in the streets because sewage pumps did not have electricity to pump waste water," Gunness said, referring to a number of incidents in recent weeks.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out who's responsible for that."

Despite Israel's opening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing into Gaza on Sunday to deliver 450,000 liters of fuel donated by Qatar, the official remained pessimistic.

"Short-term measures are essentially meaningless to people living in Gaza," he said, adding that "these solutions are only about the hours to come, but we need to be thinking about the coming decades."

"We in the UN have always said that this policy is unsustainable ... When the natural disaster ends, we need to look at long-term solutions," he added, stressing the need for limitations on exports from Gaza to be lifted.

"Gaza would not be so aid-dependent if it could export. People would have disposable incomes to buy the things they need," he added, pointing out that if the limitations of trade were lifted Gaza would be "transformed."

In the meantime, however, Palestinians in Gaza remain swamped with dirty, cold water, as rescue workers and clean-up crews work overtime under desperate conditions to address an increasingly dangerous humanitarian crisis.

Apocalyptic scenes

The days-long storm has battered Gaza on a level unprecedented in decades. At last count, somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 residents have been displaced from their homes, while streets across the coastal enclave are flooded with dirty water, in some places up to half a meter.

The images coming out of Gaza are apocalyptic, as the civil defense services and residents alike take to fishing boats to rescue those trapped in their homes days after the storm's initial onslaught.

Even those who managed to stock up on food and water in anticipation of the storm's approach found themselves stuck in record cold temperatures for days, as the electricity supply fell at times to one or two hours. In some areas the power went out completely for two full days, leaving people to warm themselves under blankets as their homes were pounded by ferocious winds.

The water supply was, as always, erratic, cutting in and out depending on when pumping stations had enough electricity to send it out. And generators were rendered useless for many, as the severe fuel shortage that began in November meant that even those institutions lucky enough to have back-up generators often had trouble getting them to work.

The lack of electricity, in turn, crippled emergency response efforts. Even as thousands of Gaza employees worked day and night to address the crisis, the lack of power meant that pumping water from flooded areas became a task of monumental proportions.

Some 1.7 million people crammed into 40 sq. km. were effectively trapped and left to their own devices. Devices which have suffered significant deterioration themselves after nearly seven years of intense blockade.

Israeli authorities say that the blockade was imposed after Hamas won democratic elections in 2006 as a form of political sanction. But that has failed to have any clear result except to punish civilians, while Hamas maintains control over an increasingly impoverished and isolated population.

Israeli authorities, meanwhile, are keen to remind the international community that they are committed to helping the people of Gaza, a fact they publicize with frequent token gestures of goodwill.

The Israeli armed forces announced Friday that it had opened the Kerem Shalom crossing to transfer heating gas and four water pumps to help with the crisis.

But the same siege that created a situation of widespread fuel shortages and power blackouts also had the effect of rendering the water pumps ineffective for the large parts of the day when Gaza's electricity network goes dead.

Among other victims of the siege is the Gaza port, which took a severe beating in the storm. Gaza officials announced Monday that the port and the fisherman’s dock, which sustains the families of 1,000 local fishermen, had suffered $100,000 in damage over the last four days.

The reason for this tremendous damage, officials argue, is that port officials were unable to secure the facility with enough barriers as Israel severely limits the import of concrete.

"Without drastic action the daily lives of Palestinians in Gaza will soon be dramatically worse than they are now. There will be virtually no reliable access to safe drinking water, standards of healthcare and education will have continued to decline, and the vision of affordable and reliable electricity for all will have become a distant memory," a 2013 UNRWA report entitled “Gaza 2020” predicted.

As large swathes of Gaza remain flooded and the Israeli blockade continues with no end in sight, it would appear that this dystopian vision of the future has already come to pass.

Gaza will weather this storm, as it has every storm and assault before in its long history. But as long as the Israeli siege persists, meaningful repair and development will remain impossible.
1 ) Outlier / USA
17/12/2013 02:25
Hamas spent money on missiles and mortars, but not on infrastructure. Decisions have consequences. If Hamas keeps making bad ones, Gazans will need to get used to such "disasters."

2 ) wellwish / Ausralia
17/12/2013 06:01
Get rid of Hamas - it will help

3 ) Robby / USA
17/12/2013 06:04
What a pathetic joke. Not a single mention of Egypt and zero blame on HAMAS.

4 ) Todd / Canada
17/12/2013 06:47
Hamas had enough concrete to build the terror tunnel to Israel, maybe they could have save some of that and used it to build a proper dock instead. It's Hamas fault for not being ready for its people

5 ) Adam / Israel
17/12/2013 07:23
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out who is responsible..." Interesting choice of words my friend :-)

6 ) bob / uk
17/12/2013 11:26
always fills my day with mirth to read comments by the pro-zionist ignoramuses around the 'free' world. if self-delusion makes you feel good, then way to go, revel in it. you're quickly losing the battle for hearts and (critically) minds, though. justice and truth will prevail. i'm no admirer of hamas or the egyptian authorities, but they're not the root cause of the injustice. let the vast majority of the refugees who've been in gaza for decades return to their homes, for a start. would you acc

7 ) F Callen / UK
17/12/2013 13:03
Bob UK, you want another civil war between Arabs and Jews? You think maybe the Arabs will get lucky this time?

8 ) Colin Wright / USA
17/12/2013 13:12
Even an anti-Zionist such as I am rendered speechless by this article as, once again, as is Maan's nature, to publish an article which solely blames Israel for the social and environmental discords in Gaza. It's perfectly evident that the Hamas led government does not have, nor ever has had, the needs and best interests of the people which it governs as a priority or even as a tertiary interest. Let's be honest, Maan, your anti-Israeli articles even defy the logic of readers like me.

9 ) Jeff / USA
17/12/2013 14:20
Tell Gazans to get rid of Hamas, quit lobbing mortars at Israel and see how much and how quickly their lives improve. You forget that they bring this on themselves by not just laying down their arms and living peacefully beside Israel instead of trying to destroy them, which they will never accomplish, by the way.

10 ) MiMi / Kabul
17/12/2013 14:22
Note where all the anti Hamas/anti Egypt/anti Palestinian/pro Zionist commenst come from. The usual 'we rule the world, so bow down to us' places. Thank you 'Bob - UK' for bringing some sense to this debate. We love the UK in our country, not so keen on the good old US of A though. Most human made disasters are caused by the USA!!! Worse thing ever created by humans was America :(

11 ) Too much / Canada
17/12/2013 15:29
Haha ridiculous ... You guts are making a mockery of Palestinians blaming sun and the moon on Israel.

12 ) Mo / Canada
17/12/2013 20:05
The reason everyone is ridiculing this article is because the whole point of this article is saying that Gaza NEEDS Israel to allow it to import and export and trade. Truth is Hamas has said over and over again "We don't NEED or WANT Israel to help at all, they are the enemy, we will use Egypt!" So now that Egypt has turned it's back also on Gaza, as they also accuse them of state terrorism, who do we blame? Israel?! That's silly and wrong and plain racist against Israel. Sorry, we're not stupid

13 ) Carlos / usa
17/12/2013 23:02
israel is terror murder and thievery. I am very proud not to be an israeli!

14 ) Eldude / Espana
17/12/2013 23:32
Hamas has squandered millions if not billions of aid money which should have been spent on infrastructure.

15 ) Colin Wright / USA
18/12/2013 00:10
Re 'Colin Wright' #8: This isn't me either. It is indicative of the morality of a Zionist and his lack of any better argument that whoever it is resorts to this tactic, though.

16 ) Colin Wright / USA
18/12/2013 00:12
To Mo #12: 'The reason everyone is ridiculing this article is because the whole point of this article is saying that Gaza NEEDS Israel to allow it to import and export and trade. ' Of course it does. The inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto were similarly dependent upon THEIR Nazis.

17 ) Mel / USA
18/12/2013 02:23
It's actually a very good article focusing on facts,that even B4 Storm Alexa energy plants,fuel derths,electrical plants,sewage plants were all running on empty,due to Israel &Egypt's blockade on Gaza & charging blood-money prices which Gazan's can't afford.Of course,factional division doesn't help either.But Storm Alexa will pass,while Gaza remains COLLECTIVELY punished(war crime),unemployed,under-stocked,malnourished &unable to meet added NATURAL crises,under Israel's UMBRELLA persecution.

18 ) Ray Desmond / Ireland
18/12/2013 15:25
Israel has no interest in peace. They want the Palestinian's land. They talk of peace while building more and more settlements on occupied territory. Bit by bit, they are pushing those people out. It does not matter if the Palestinians fight back or not. Israel's course is set, and they have all the power, plus the United States supporting them with arms, money and political muscle.

19 ) Tobias / USA
18/12/2013 16:44
THE "SIEGE" or Naval Blockade (consistent with international law) only
EXISTS BECAUSE HAMAS TERRORISM, rockets, abductions, etc., SO
If you want to blame "man-made" contributions, then BLAME HAMAS.

20 ) Thomas Hussey / USA
18/12/2013 19:29
Let's take this back to its inception: the advent of Zionist land acquisition in Palestine in the 1880s. Zionism's goal in Palestine has always been total control of the land. It now has total control of the land, but the reason why Israel has not forced a mass exodus of Palestinians from the rest of the land, a program that began with the Zionist holocaust of 1948 is concern about world opinion. Thus, the gradualist approach of making Palestinian lives as miserable as possible.

21 ) carl / usa
19/12/2013 03:17
Get rid of Hamas? That's like saying Abolish the Racist Neo-Nazi State of Israel. Do you happen to know anything about the origins of Hamas? And Israel's involvement with creating it as a counter to the PLO? You may like funding fascism. I don't.

22 ) Mo / Canada
19/12/2013 08:46
To Colin #16) Wrong. The Jews in Warsaw did not refuse the Nazi's right to resist, did not call them decendents of apes and pigs, and did not try to kill them for the sole reason of existing. They also did not have another country to turn to and did not refuse assistance from the Nazis. Very wrong analogy.

23 ) Rene / US
21/12/2013 11:13
Netanyahu's father BenZion in an interview shortly before his death said : We will defeat the Arabs by preventing food getting to their cities. We will prevent them education. We will prevent power to their towns. It was in an Israeli publication-presently can't recall which, but will come back with it. Meanwhile you can find it online.

24 ) Colin Wright / USA
21/12/2013 12:33
To Mo #16: ' Very wrong analogy.' The only thing that is wrong with the analogy is that while the Nazis were able to go ahead and exterminate the Jews, and while the Zionists would dearly love to emulate their spiritual fathers, Israel is too dependent on external support and international public opinion to pull the trigger. But that consideration needn't apply to you personally. Come on and tell us all about your plans. Don't be shy: we know who you are and what you'd like.

25 ) Rene / US
22/12/2013 11:31
Referred to interview, Sari Makover Belikov with Ben Zion Netanyahu in Maariv .

26 ) Murray / Israel
24/12/2013 13:34
@23 Rene, I will hang on and wait here, and my family will be here when our generation die, and so on, you get the picture. We ain't going nowhere this our home, and has been for four thousand years.

27 ) Maureen / Australia
27/12/2013 18:54
#26 Murray Don't be so sure of that. Nothing lasts forever, but if it makes you happy, continue to live in your 4 thousand years" fantasy world.

28 ) Robin Gaura-Vila / Mexico
28/12/2013 16:56
I am astonished at some of the comments. Hamas was elected by the people. That is called democracy. They were vilified by US and mini me Israel, just as the ANC was, for financial and political reasons. Nelson Mandela was on the US terrorist list until 2008. Also, lets remember that under international law one is allowed to take up arms against any invader. So those puny rockets firing from what is left of Palestinian territory onto the lands of their grandfathers is legal.

29 ) Murray / Israel
05/01/2014 07:20
@27 I am assuming you are not an Aboriginal, sot he facts are you Aussie settler, that the Jewish people will be at home tell your friends that.

30 ) Josiane / France
05/01/2014 19:21
#20 Thomas the supposed holocust of the Arabs is due to the call of the Arab leaders telling the Arabs to leave Israel so they could destroy the Jews. Israel is not responsible for this occurence the Arabs were more than happy to leave and to think that they would kill the Jews. this is still on news reels
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