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Heavy rain in Gaza brings flooding, disease to a beleaguered population

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Internashonal

Heavy rain in Gaza brings flooding, disease to a beleaguered population


Heavy rains pummeled southern Gaza on Wednesday, bringing mud, flooding and in some cases disease to the thousands of displaced Palestinians living in makeshift tents in this corner of the besieged enclave.

“We didn’t get our winter clothes from Gaza City when we left more than a month ago,” Ramzi Mohammed, 31, told The Washington Post in a phone call. Mohammed is staying in Rafah with his wife and three children. “The only thing we do during the night, we cuddle each other to warm up,” he said.

During its ground assault on Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces ordered residents to move south into Khan Younis and Rafah for shelter. The war has already killed at least 18,000 Palestinians and wounded 50,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. And Khan Younis, once considered safe, is now the site of some of the heaviest fighting.

What is happening in Gaza’s Khan Younis, as Israel’s offensive heads south

Roughly 1.9 million people in Gaza — or 90 percent of the territory’s population, per United Nations data — have been displaced. Many now live in tents draped with whatever blankets or clothes they can find.

“Blankets are not available in the market to buy,” Mohammed said. “But [even] when it’s available, I can’t afford the price.”

Computer models simulated that 10 to 35 millimeters (0.4 to 1.4 inches) of rain fell over Gaza as a zone of low pressure drew humid air from the Mediterranean inland. Reports from the Israel Meteorological Service showed that about that amount fell along much of the Mediterranean coast. Ashkelon, an Israeli city just to the north of Gaza, received 15.9 mm (0.6 inches).

The area of low pressure is now moving away to the east, and dry, seasonable weather is predicted for the region over the coming days. The rain that occurred in Israel and Gaza is typical between November and March, generally considered the region’s rainy season.

The rain exacerbated issues plaguing an already distressed health-care system. Coupled with the spread of disease and overcrowding, the United Nations on Wednesday called the situation “a public health disaster.”

“The shelters have long ago exceeded their full capacity, with people lining up for hours just to get to a toilet — one toilet available for hundreds of people,” said Lynn Hastings, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, in remarks to the press. “This is leading to nothing but a health crisis.”

Hastings said Israel’s evacuation orders were jeopardizing aid operations.

“Just trying to get food to people who are in Rafah is extremely difficult,” she added.

Mahmoud Aziz, 36, is among those who fled south to Rafah under Israel’s orders. He is now staying in one building with about 70 people.

“Our whole family has diarrhea that seems to be caused by the water we drink, or the cold weather,” he said. “We leave the windows open because of the bombing; we are afraid of the glass if there is a bombing.”

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.



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