By Mohamed el-Sawwaf in Gaza
Already running out of food supplies, living hand to mouth and getting flying hours of electricity let alone serious shortage of badly needed drugs, Gazans are now facing a new health crisis due to the Israeli blockade as they are being denied disinfectants necessary to decontaminate drinking water.
"It seems as if the shortage of fuel and electricity were not enough for us," crying Um Mohamed told IslamOnline.net Friday, February 29.
The Palestinian water utility on Wednesday, February 27, urged the Gazans to boil drinking water to disinfect it as the Israeli blockade caused a severe shortage of chemicals.
"Until we resolve the problem, the people of Gaza should boil contaminated water," said Monther Shoblak of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), which runs the Gaza water system.
The CMWU said 52 of Gaza’s 140 water wells had no chlorine and the others were fast running out.
The utility posted a newspaper advert on Wednesday warning the Gaza Strip’s 1.5 million residents the situation could trigger water-prone diseases.
Gaza’s water supply has been patchy as the CMWU is unable to import spare parts to repair old pumps due to the crippling Israeli blockade.
Israel has sealed the Gaza Strip to all but vital humanitarian supplies since Hamas seized power last June following clashes with rival Fatah.
On January 17, Israel completely locked down the Strip, causing its sole power plant to shut down for lack of fuel. It resumed afterwards sporadic fuel shipments.
Israel also stepped up its missile attacks against Gaza, killing up to 32 Palestinians, including a five-month baby, in a series of air raids in less than 48 hours.
Humanitarian groups have denounced the Israeli blockade as collective punishment of the Palestinians.
Many Gazans fear kidney diseases caused by contaminated water.
"It is impossible to guarantee 100 percent that children and people would drink only boiled water," said Um Mohamed.
Hajj Ahmed stands similarly helpless.
"We don’t know what to do," he said. "Every day comes with a new catastrophe."
"We will fill in bottles of boiled water and give them to our children when they go to school. This might help."
The Popular Committee Against the Siege warned of a looming water and environmental crisis as drinking water further mixes with sewerage due to the Strip’s dilapidated sewage system.
"The CMWU tried in vain to import the much-needed chlorine and disinfectants due to the Israeli siege," it said in a statement obtained by IOL.
"This has left the water providers with no option but to cut water for all Gazans."
New UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry added his condemnation to the Israeli blockade on Wednesday.
"Israeli measures amounting to collective punishment are not acceptable," he said in a report to the UN Security Council.
"We call on Israel to meet its obligations toward the civilian population of Gaza under international law."