Gaza crisis: Winter rain compounds suffering of displaced Palestinians

Temperatures dropped overnight as rain battered the war-wrecked territory, where many tents were swamped, and many people were forced to sleep under plastic sheeting

By AFP

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Displaced Palestinians walk next to tents following heavy rains at tent camps. Photo: Reuters
Displaced Palestinians walk next to tents following heavy rains at tent camps. Photo: Reuters

Published: Wed 13 Dec 2023, 7:23 PM

Cold winter rains lashed war-battered Gaza on Wednesday, compounding the suffering of Palestinians forced from their homes and now huddling in flooded tents.

Aziza al-Shabrawi tried in vain to get the rainwater out of her family's tent, pointing to her two children living in such precarious conditions.

"My son is sick because of the bitter cold and my daughter is barefoot. It's like we're beggars," said the 38-year-old. "No one cares, and no one helps."

Temperatures dropped overnight as rain pummelled the war-wrecked territory where many tents were swamped and many people were forced to sleep under plastic sheeting due to the lack of any better shelter.

Shabrawi is among some 1.9 million people displaced during more than two months of war, half of them children, with many fleeing to southern Rafah following orders from the Israeli military.

She was forced first to leave her home in the northern Jabalia refugee camp, reaching the southern city of Khan Yunis, only to flee further to Rafah as Israeli troops pressed deeper into Gaza.

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, walk following heavy rains at tent camps.
Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, walk following heavy rains at tent camps.

Rafah has become a vast camp for the displaced beside the Egyptian border, with hundreds of tents erected using wood and plastic sheets.

"We spent five days outdoors. And now the rain has flooded the tents," said another displaced resident, Bilal al-Qassas.

Gusts of wind shook the fragile structures, while people tried to reinforce them with more plastic sheeting.

"Where do we migrate to? Our dignity is gone. Where do women relieve themselves? There are no bathrooms," said 41-year-old Qassas.

"We've started to long for martyrdom. We don't want to eat or drink."

A displaced Palestinian adjusts his tent following heavy rains
A displaced Palestinian adjusts his tent following heavy rains

Since December 3, tens of thousands have reached Rafah, according to the United Nations humanitarian agency, where they face "extremely overcrowded conditions both inside and outside shelters".

They are in "desperate need of food, water, shelter, health, and protection," the UN's OCHA said in a statement.

"Without enough latrines, open-air defecation is prevalent, increasing concerns of further spread of disease, particularly during rains and related flooding."

As the war intensified, many Gazans have fled their homes in just the clothes they were wearing, at a time when temperatures were considerably warmer.

The war broke out on October 7 with an attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel which killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.

The military response by Israel has killed more than 18,600 Gazans, most of them civilians, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory says.

With the war in its third month, many Palestinians told AFP they are surviving without mattresses, blankets or anything else to keep them warm.

Bilal Abu Bakr, who fled from the coastal Al-Shati refugee camp, said he has no electricity or internet access to check the weather forecast.

"Suddenly, we were inundated by rainwater," said the 49-year-old. "We only have one blanket for nine people. We ask for the minimum -- some mattresses, blankets, clothes for the displaced.

"We've forgotten the suffering of war, and we are now suffering from winter and the freezing cold, for how long?"

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