The winter rains have finally arrived in Gaza, bringing with them new challenges for the 2.3 million residents of the Strip who have suffered six weeks of war between Israel and Hamas. After a warm and dry autumn, early Tuesday morning a Mediterranean storm broke out over the Palestinian enclave, a coastal rectangle about 41 kilometers long and 12 kilometers wide. The rain dispersed the smoke and fire from the latest nighttime bombings, in addition to cleaning all the neighborhoods of the gray dust that comes from the rubble after the attacks.
According to the latest UN data, water consumption in Gaza has dropped by 90% since the conflict began, prompting many families to come out to enjoy the unusually humid air. “The smoke has cleared from the air and the sky was beautiful… Today is a new day,” he wrote on the social network X (formerly Twitter). the Palestinian-British surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta.
But the first relief that the rain brought dissipated as the children in wet clothes began to shiver, the improvised shelters began to flood, and the ground on roads and open fields began to turn into mud. It is estimated that two-thirds of Gaza’s population has had to flee their homes due to intense shelling and ground invasion by Israeli forces.
The war, which broke out after Hamas attacks on October 7 against communities in southern Israel, has left more than 11,300 Palestinians dead, according to the latest figures from authorities in Hamas-ruled Gaza. Based on these data, it is already the bloodiest contest of the 75 years that the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has lasted, and of Israel’s previous offensives against Gaza.
“At first my children enjoyed the rain and my daughter went out to wash her hair,” says Saleh Al Omran, from the central city of Deir Al Balah. After a bombing that damaged her home, she had to move with her family to her sister-in-law’s house. “We have no way to heat the house, it’s cold,” she adds.
More than 630,000 people from northern Gaza are taking refuge in schools and other buildings of the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the southern half of the Strip, where they fled when the Israeli army ordered them to move to “safe areas.” ”. But bombs are also falling in the south and UNRWA itself reported this Tuesday that it was having a hard time providing basic services in that area. The agency warned that it could run out of fuel this Wednesday and that this would lead to the interruption of most of its humanitarian operations, as well as the supply of food and medicine through the Egyptian Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world.
The commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, has warned that around 70% of the population in the Gaza Strip will be left without drinking water today and that all the agency’s operations They are “on the verge of collapse.”
For his part, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, Thomas White, reported that half a tank of fuel entered Gaza today for the first time since the start of the war more than a month ago, but he regretted that it could not be used to the water plants or hospitals in the Strip.
“We have just received 23,027 liters of fuel from Egypt (half a tanker truck) but its use has been restricted by the Israeli authorities only to transport aid [humanitaria] from Rafah,” he explained on his official X account.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Catherine Russell, recalled that “with winter around the corner, the need for fuel will become more pressing.” Russell visited the southern Gaza Strip yesterday and witnessed that first winter rain: “When I left Gaza today the rain got worse, increasing the feeling of hardship.”
In the displaced persons camps
In a camp set up in front of a hospital in Deir Al Balah, displaced people have difficulty making their way through the mud and covering their tents with plastic sheets, according to the AP news agency. “All these tents have collapsed in the rain,” laments Iqbal Abu Saud, who fled Gaza City with 30 of his relatives. “For how many days are we going to have to put up with this?” he asks.
“The rain will only aggravate the suffering,” said Margaret Harris, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), at a press conference in Geneva in which she also pointed out bacterial infections, childhood diarrhea and other water-borne diseases, which were already on the rise due to the interruption of sewage pumping and the scarcity of drinking water.
More storms are forecast for next week, with temperatures dropping to 17 degrees Celsius as winter sets in. Weather conditions are also likely to affect the fighting, with mud making it difficult for Israeli weapons to move.
As a man from a UN shelter told the Arab television network Al Jazeera, the humanitarian crisis is becoming more pressing. “If our children do not die from the war, they will die from hunger and the cold of winter,” he lamented.
Translated by Francisco de Zárate and updated by elDiario.es