Palestinians in Gaza are suffering widespread flooding just months after Israeli shells destroyed their homes.
Water gushes through entire neighbourhoods as sewers overflow into the streets.
Ebaa Rezeq, who lives in Gaza, told Socialist Worker, “The people who luckily escaped death in the last war are now back to dying slowly.
“Nothing has changed since the war ended. Now with the floods that Gaza witnessed, the agony never seems to stop.”
Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip is to blame for the scale of the disaster.
It bombed and invaded Gaza for five weeks between July and August this year.
The Israelis wanted to break Hamas, the democratically elected government of Gaza, because it resists Israel’s siege.
One of Israel’s aims in the summer was to destroy Gaza’s infrastructure.
Israeli Defence Force (IDF) tanks shelled Gaza’s only power plant. And the Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene Group says that 50 percent of Gaza City’s sewage and pumping systems were destroyed.
Now, with little rebuilt, recent storms have left much of Gaza flooded.
Lara Aburamadan, a journalist from Gaza, told Socialist Worker how the destruction of the drainage system led to the widespread flooding.
“After the war everyone was waiting for the reconstruction to begin.There are no sewers or pumps because the ground was destroyed by the Israelis.”
But it wasn’t just the sewers that the Israelis destroyed.
The United Nations (UN) has said that over 100,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed during the bombardment.
It estimates that 108,000 Palestinians were made homeless and around 40,000 of them are seeking shelter in crammed UN schools.
Ebaa explained that the floods have forced out some of those who managed to return to their houses.
“A few families are now living in inadequate metal caravans that have no electricity or plumbing.
“They’re not big enough to contain a Gazan family and can’t protect them from the winter cold,” she said.
She added, “Some families went back to their damaged homes to try to repair one of the rooms to stay in.
“Others try to build shacks with whatever they can find, such as plastic, tin or recycled rubble.”
“With no construction material, people are trying to cover up holes and broken windows with wood or plastic sheets. These can never prevent water infiltration or cold, especially in the heavy storms that we lately witnessed.
“And it’s not winter yet.”
Ebaa expects the situation to only get worse.
“In last year’s floods more than 20,000 people were homeless,” she explained.
“This year, after war and no repair of infrastructure, more floods will definitely happen and it’ll get harder and harder to deal with by the second.”
Palestinians are forced to pay to rebuild their homes
The Israeli siege has effectively blocked the “reconstruction” of Gaza after the summer’s assault.
Israel imposed its blockade in 2007 when Hamas was elected and has continued it ever since.
The Israelis claim it’s preventing Hamas from launching attacks.
In reality, it’s an act of collective punishment against all Palestinians living in Gaza.
The UN declared a state of emergency in Gaza last month because of the flooding. But its own Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism deal is making the situation worse.
The UN-brokered deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank is supposed to help rebuild Gaza.
But it includes an agreement that restricts the flow of “dual use” materials into Gaza. This includes cement and other building materials.
Israel claims that Hamas could use these materials to build tunnels and rocket silos.
So under the agreement, the UN “assesses” the needs of each construction project before passing its findings to Israel for approval.
This means little reconstruction has happened since Israel’s latest attack ended.
Gaza’s residents are also forced to buy reconstruction materials from “designated vendors”.
These vendors include Israeli cement companies Nesher, Ready Mix, and Hanson Israel. All three are all involved in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank.
So Palestinians have to pay to rebuild homes that Israel destroyed, while Israeli companies profit from their misery.
Ebaa Rezeq described how the blockade was halting the reconstruction.
“The entry of materials is going at a very slow pace. The materials that have already got in have been piling up in warehouses waiting for approval before they can be used,” she said.
“Other than that, construction materials are stuck at the Rafah and Karm Abu Salem borders because they haven’t had approval.”
She added, “It is hard enough as it is living under an eight-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade, and a war almost every two years.
“The people want to move on and try to get back on their feet. But this seems even more of a dream than ever.”
Aid cash spent on ‘security’
The Cairo donor conference held in October said it raised £3.5 billion for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.
But at least half was earmarked for the Palestinian Authority (PA), which doesn’t control the Gaza Strip.
The PA spent 24 percent of its budget on “security”.
This is largely used to police Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation.
British arms sale hypocrisy
Britain “donated” £20 million at the Gaza Reconstruction Conference last month.
But Britain granted £8 billion worth of military and civilian controlled export licences to Israel last year.
This included weapon parts which helped it to launch its bloody attack.
UN is complicit in the siege
In 2012 the United Nations condemned the siege of Gaza as an act of “collective punishment”.
The UN criticised the reconstruction process as slow and ineffective, but it’s done nothing to lift the siege.