Israel opens dams, flooding central Gaza – again

24 Feb

flooding-gaza-memo-2Israel opens dams, flooding Gaza and displacing hundreds, for the second time in 14 Months. (Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor)

Report compiled by Ben Norton, 22 February 2015

Israel opened several dams near the border east of Gaza on the night of 21 February, flooding the Gaza valley, destroying scores of homes and forcing hundreds of Palestinians to flee. This is the second time Israel has done so in 14 months.

Al Jazeera reports that at least 80 homes have been flooded. Families from both sides of the Gaza Valley are seeking sanctuary in makeshift shelters in UNRWA-sponsored refugee camps in al-Bureij and al-Zahra, with the help of the Gaza Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Public Works.

Brigadier General Said Al-Saudi, a chief with the Civil Defense Directorate (CDD), told Al Jazeera that “Israel opened water dams, without warning, last night [on the 21st], causing serious damage to Gazan villages near the border.” At the time of the interview, he said that over 40 homes had been flooded and that 80 families were evacuated to shelters. Later reports have published larger estimates.

 

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Mohammed Asad, a photographer for Middle East Monitor, published photos of the flooding. In birds-eye shots, dirty, murky brown water fills the strip for as far as the eye can see.

The Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) reports on the statements by Gaza’s CDD, explaining that the Israeli “army opened the floodgates of a canal leading to central Gaza, which resulted in the removal of sand mounds along the border with Israel.” It estimated at that time that approximately 50 homes had been sunk in the floods, that several residents were injured in eastern Gaza, and that livestock and poultry had died.

Al-Saudi noted that the flooding will cause significant damage to local agriculture and livestock. Ma’an also indicates that Israel’s dams have dried up Gaza’s wetlands, destroying the only source of surface water. Local residents who have no other way to dispose their waste have thus used this land, resulting in an “environmental hazard.”

Bassel AbuWarda, a doctor in Gaza, tweeted photos of the flooding, saying the water levels approach 3.5 meters (11.5 feet).

 

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Anne Paq, a French photographer who worked for years in Palestine with the collective ActiveStills, tweeted a photo of brown waste in the sea.

These floods come only days after an extreme winter storm, featuring torrential freezing rain and snow. Ma’an notes that this storm also “displaced dozens and caused hardship for tens of thousands, including many of the approximately 110,000 Palestinians left homeless by Israel’s assault over summer.” It writes:

The suffering is compounded by the fact that Israel has maintained a complete siege over Gaza for the last eight years, severely limiting electricity and the availability of fuel for generators. It has also prevented the displaced from rebuilding their homes, as construction materials are largely banned from entering.

Since 2007, Israel has imposed a siege on Gaza. The UN and numerous other international organizations have consistently deemed it illegal. Among many of the myriad adverse effects, the blockade has prevented Gazans from access to rainwater drainage equipment and fuel, which has made the flooding drastically worse.

WAFA notes that this phenomenon is not uncommon. “Almost every year, the Israeli authorities open the floodgates to their dams in the direction of Gaza and without prior notice,” it writes.

Israel also suddenly opened dams east of Gaza in December 2013, flooding homes and forcing Palestinians to flee in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza.

In 2010, Israel did the same, destroying the homes of 100 families. Seven people almost drowned, but were saved by Civil Defense services.

Brigadier General Al-Saudi said Gaza’s government plans to ask international human rights organizations to step in to ensure that Israel does not flood Gaza again.

Abridged from report by journalist Ben Nortonon: bennorton.com

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