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Escalating Israeli Airstrikes Deepen Water Crisis in Besieged Gaza

by Lucas Garcia
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Water Crisis in Gaza

In the midst of relentless Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, the dire situation for its residents has taken a critical turn with the shortage of clean water. Laila Abu Samhadaneh, a 65-year-old resident, exemplifies the concern gripping the region as she worries about the availability of water.

With a population of 2.3 million people, the besieged Gaza Strip has been cut off from clean, running water due to Israel’s decision to sever water and electricity supplies to the enclave in response to a recent Hamas attack. This chokehold has led to taps running dry across the territory. When water does manage to trickle from the pipes, it is a meager flow lasting no more than 30 minutes each day and is so contaminated with sewage and seawater that it becomes undrinkable, according to residents.

From her three-room home in the southern town of Rafah, which has become a de facto shelter for her and others following Israel’s evacuation demand, Abu Samhadaneh reveals that she rations just a few liters of water among dozens of friends and relatives each day, exclaiming, “We’re going crazy.”

The water crisis has further plunged Gaza’s population into misery as Israel’s airstrikes continue relentlessly, responding to the earlier Hamas attack that claimed Israeli lives. These retaliatory strikes have resulted in the destruction of hundreds of buildings in Gaza and the tragic loss of over 2,200 Palestinian lives.

Even amidst this chaos, the desperate search for water remains a constant concern. United Nations agencies and aid groups are urgently appealing to Israel to allow emergency deliveries of fuel and other essential supplies into the Gaza Strip.

Miriam Marmur, a spokesperson for Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, pointed out, “There really can’t be a justification for this kind of targeting of civilians.”

The U.N. Palestinian refugee agency has declared the water crisis a “matter of life or death.” Philippe Lazzarini, the agency’s commissioner general, warns that without immediate deliveries of fuel and water, “people will start dying of severe dehydration.”

In normal circumstances, the coastal enclave relies on Israel for one-third of its available drinking water. However, with the shutdown of desalination plants and wastewater treatment stations due to the electricity cutoff, the entire territory is left without running water. Residents are left with no option but to purchase dwindling supplies of water or resort to whatever contaminated water may flow from their taps.

For the residents, even those who can afford bottled water, the situation is increasingly dire. Noor Swirki, who sought refuge in a U.N. shelter after her Gaza City apartment was destroyed by an airstrike, had to spend two hours searching for a box of six bottles of water to last her family for days. She explains that basic survival has become a pressing concern, stating, “We’re worried about our safety in the bombing, and now there’s this other issue of survival.”

Across Gaza, many residents have been forced to restrict their water intake to as little as half a liter per day, and urinate once a day or even less. This falls far short of the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 50 to 100 liters per day per person for proper hydration and sanitation.

The current situation, marked by drinking dirty water and poor sanitation due to the water crisis, raises the risk of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. Residents report that the coastal water now tastes salty, exacerbating dehydration.

As Gaza faces this dire water crisis amidst the ongoing conflict, the situation threatens to worsen rapidly, with catastrophic consequences for the health and well-being of its people.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Water Crisis in Gaza

What is the cause of the water crisis in Gaza?

The water crisis in Gaza is primarily caused by Israel’s decision to cut off water and electricity supplies to the enclave in response to escalating tensions, particularly a recent Hamas attack. This has left the 2.3 million residents of Gaza without access to clean, running water.

How severe is the water shortage in Gaza?

The water shortage in Gaza is severe, with taps running dry across the territory. When water does flow, it’s only available for about 30 minutes each day and is heavily contaminated with sewage and seawater, rendering it undrinkable.

What are the consequences of the water crisis?

The consequences are dire. Residents are forced to ration water, even among family and friends. Many are drinking as little as half a liter of water per day, which falls far short of the recommended daily intake for proper hydration and sanitation. This crisis poses a significant risk of waterborne diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio.

How are international organizations and aid groups responding to the crisis?

International organizations and aid groups, including the United Nations, are urgently appealing to Israel to allow emergency deliveries of fuel and essential supplies into Gaza. They recognize the water crisis as a matter of life or death and are striving to provide assistance to mitigate the dire situation.

What is the broader context of the Gaza crisis?

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007, which has severely limited access to resources, including water. The recent escalation in conflict has exacerbated the already challenging living conditions for Gaza’s population, making access to clean water even more critical for their survival.

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