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Israel opens dam gates to increase suffering in Gaza

January 23, 2014 at 12:18 am

As the storm Alexa leaves the region, its catastrophic effects have started to appear in the Gaza Strip, the coastal enclave which has been under strict Israeli siege since 2006. Hundreds of families have been displaced by the storm, which also caused more than 100 causalities, including two deaths, massive damage to infrastructure and congestion in poorly equipped hospitals.

While a storm is a natural phenomenon and thus cannot be blamed on humans, when a so-called democratic state contributes to increasing the humanitarian suffering during the worst moments of the storm, humans can be blamed for the damages, so this is the question. The problem is that the Israeli occupation, which is backed by the US and EU, did its best to multiply by several times the infliction of the Gaza residents during the storm.

As the level of rainwater rose to more than two and a half metres in the streets of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli occupation opened the gates of the dams in the south, or what it calls reservoirs. That flooded large amounts of rainwater into the valleys passing across the Strip and then into the Mediterranean. Hundreds of houses on the banks in the valleys were suddenly swamped in water and the families forced to flee their houses during the violent storms and heavy rain.

Those who were affected explained to me their suffering, and officials also affirmed the information about Israel opening the gates. I do not want to stop here at the Israeli denial of the incident and how the Israeli media has refuted it; Palestinian security services have tracked the collaborators who admitted they were asked by Israeli intelligence to wander the Strip looking for tunnels that Israel believes were dug by the Palestinian resistance.

These collaborators, who were caught by the security services, affirmed that their Israeli operators explained the plan to them. They said that they let a huge amount of water enter into the Strip in order to flood the tunnels dug by the Palestinian resistance. A website for the Palestinian security services has confirmed this information and said that this act was inspired by Israel’s fear that the Palestinian tunnels might be leading to Israel’s vital places.

Although Israeli officials and Israeli media are refuting the information about opening the gates, I would like to remind them that this is not the first time for them to do this dirty act. In January 2010, they opened the gates and swamped the Strip with huge amounts of water. International mass media reported on the incident and Israel said nothing.

In January 2007, Israel did the same thing and swamped hundreds of Palestinian houses with huge amounts of water, which caused much loss in the agricultural sector and damaged infrastructure. Al-Jazeera Channel and many other international mass media reported on this incident, which was candidly condemned by the Palestinian Minister of Public Works Abdul-Rahman Saidan. That incident followed an Israeli airstrike on the bridges over the Gaza Valley in the middle of the Strip. When the dams were opened, Gaza was fully divided into two separate parts.

“Israeli aggression against our people is not only by tanks and warplanes, but also by opening dams to swamp our people with water,” Saidan said back then. At the time, at least 120 houses were impacted, including 20 that were completely damaged.

In 2001, the Israeli occupation opened the gates on the reservoirs to the west of the Al-Shejaea neighbourhood in central Gaza City. That was during the summer and Israel claimed that it was a mistake.

The losses to the Gaza Strip caused by the damages resulting from Alexa, and doubled after Israel opened the reservoirs, are estimated to be around $12 million in infrastructure, $3 million in commercial and industrial facilities, $7 million in the agricultural sector and $2 million in the transportation sector.

More than 900 families, or 5,000 people, are still displaced. They are living in makeshift centres as their houses are still swamped with rainwater. A few schools and clinics in remote areas are also still closed because the streets leading to them are in need of major repairs.

The author is MEMO’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.