Expected Snow Storm Could Lead to Human Catastrophe in Gaza

GAZA, January 5, 2015 (WAFA) – The Gaza city Municipality warned against the catastrophic consequences of the snow storm, expected to hit the region on Tuesday, on Gaza’s already fragile infrastructure as a result of the 51-year-old Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip.

It stressed that the anticipated snow storm, which was given the name ‘Huda’, will put a strain on the already devastated infrastructure in Gaza, inflecting a further catastrophic blow on the people of Gaza.

Gaza still suffers from the repercussions of the Israeli aggression which took place in the summer of 2014; the infrastructure along with thousands of homes were completely destroyed, displacing thousands of families who up until the moment live in caravans on the rubble of their homes.

According to the Palestinian Housing Ministry, the Israeli aggression on Gaza caused the destruction of 9,000 homes; while 8,000 others were partially destroyed displacing thousands of Palestinians.

During the aggression, thousands of Palestinians were forced to seek shelter in UNRWA-run schools, and in hospitals, which were already flooded with injury cases; some even built makeshift tents out of sticks, sheets, or cardboard boxes to shelter their families.

The Municipality made an appeal to promptly begin with the reconstruction of Gaza. An international aid conference to help rebuild Gaza was held in Cairo on October, where donors pledged $5.4 billion in Gaza aid, however, the reconstruction work has not started yet due to Israeli restrictions on the entry of materials and failure of United Nations rebuilding mechanism.

According to OXFAM, “Around 100,000 people – more than half of them children – are still displaced as their homes have been destroyed. Vital water and sanitation infrastructure, schools and health facilities also urgently need rebuilding. Such massive reconstruction will require hundreds of thousands of truckloads of essential materials as soon as possible. However, in November just 287 such truckloads entered Gaza; at this rate, reconstruction and development could take decades.”

The World Bank reported that 10% of Gaza’s residents remain without electricity since the recent July-August conflict severely damaged the electricity supply; the rest of the population has limited access to power. This would further aggravate the human catastrophe due to the severe cold and lack of heating methods.

The people of Gaza are forced to rely on other unsafe heating methods to provide warmth for their families and children; on Monday afternoon a day after two boys, 4-year-old Omar and 3-year-old Khalid al-Habil, were killed when a burning candle they lit up following a power shutdown set the house on fire.

Since 2010, at least 26 Palestinians in Gaza were killed in incidents in which burning candles, used at times of power outages, set homes ablaze, killing civilians by either suffocation from the smoke or burning, said al-Mezan Human Rights Center.

Gaza’s Electricity Distribution Company recently declared an emergency recourse to the irregular power outages for one hour or two in several areas, further worsening an already exacerbating crisis of “six hours on, 12 hours off” power schedule, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Information Center (PIC).

During the 2014 Israeli summer aggression on Gaza, Israeli jet fighter bombed Gaza’s only powerplant, setting the main generator on fire.