The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Richard Falk warned on Wednesday of an impending disaster in the Gaza Strip as a result of the ongoing Israeli siege.
In a statement, Falk said: "The situation in Gaza is approaching disaster due to the breakdown of healthcare services and the leakage of sewage into the streets."
He explained: "The shortage of fuel and the electricity blackout undermine the already dilapidated infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. The shortages severely impact basic services, including water and general sanitation. The start of winter further deteriorates the situation."
According to the statement, only half of the residents in Gaza have electricity. He affirmed that electricity cuts to healthcare services "put patients' lives at stake".
Electricity shortages have already disabled parts of the sewage system. Warning of a greater decline in the general health of Palestinians in Gaza, Falk pointed out that: "Other sewage pumps will soon run out of fuel. This will lead to more sewage leaking into the streets."
Regarding clean drinking water, Falk noted that only around 40 per cent of Gaza's residents have access to it, and even then only once every three days.
Falk called for urgent action to avoid the occurrence of a full blown humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The UN official put responsibility for the plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on the Israeli occupation. Based on international humanitarian law, he explained, Israel has to protect the life of civilians in Gaza and to solve the increasing threats to their livelihood.
"A failure to carry this out might become an example of extreme collective punishment, which is, unconditionally, prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention," he said.