‘We Cannot Breathe’ – Gaza Residents Living in Shelters, Inhaling Fume

Displaced Palestinians in a makeshift refugee camp in Gaza. (Photo: Abdallah Aljamal, Palestine Chronicle)

By Abdallah Aljamal – Gaza

“We have no alternative for cooking food but to light fires. Our hands have turned black and burnt, and so have our faces”.

The Government Media Office in the Gaza Strip has announced that diseases and health complications such as chest pain, breathing difficulties, respiratory illnesses, and asthma have spread across the region due to the lack of cooking gas, which forces residents to rely on open fires for cooking.

Along with a genocidal war, which has killed and wounded well over 110,000 Palestinians in Gaza, Israel has also imposed a complete siege on the enclave.

“There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on October 9. Since that moment, only a very limited quantity of aid has entered Gaza, leading to a catastrophic humanitarian situation. 

The Palestine Chronicle spoke with three residents from Gaza, who talked about the hardship they have been enduring during the last seven months.

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Our Faces are Burnt 

“We have been out of cooking gas in my house since the first month of the war, and there is no cooking gas in Gaza City to refill our cylinders,” Hajj Abu Mahmoud Shhaiber told The Palestine Chronicle. 

“I have searched everywhere, but there is no gas available, and the occupation prevents its entry into the north of the Gaza Strip,” he added.

Therefore, for the last seven months, the Shhaiber family has been forced to cook our food on firewood. This, however, has caused us significant health complications.

“My wife, my daughters who help us with cooking and myself, we all suffer from chest pain, respiratory issues, and breathing difficulties,” he told us, explaining that the problem is exacerbated by the fact that there is no medicine in Gaza City, and that all health centers and hospitals have been destroyed or shut down. 

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“We have no alternative for cooking food but to light fires. Our hands have turned black and burnt, and so have our faces,” Shhaiber continued. 

“I always feel short of breath, and I am constantly coughing and wheezing, but unfortunately, we have no alternative, due to the Israeli siege.”

No Other Option

“I still live with my children in the Northern Governorate. My home and my family’s home were destroyed, but we live in displacement centers,” Rond al-Masri told us. 

“I lost my gas cylinders during the bombing of my house, and I don’t have a stove or gas for cooking. Therefore, I have to rely on canned food when it’s available to feed my children,” she continued. 

Rond told us that they are forced to light fires to prepare food.

“There is no other option available to us, and there is no alternative to cooking gas but to light fires. Throughout the day, my children search for wood and cardboard for us, and if available, we light a fire and prepare food,” Rond said.

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Rond’s children got sick and the woman explained that this is due to a combination of factors. 

“They have fallen ill due to poor hygiene, and from spending long hours under the sun searching for food. Moreover, exposure to carbon monoxide from the fires and the smoke they constantly inhale have caused us respiratory diseases,” the woman said, desperately.

“In northern Gaza, there are no hospitals or clinics to obtain medication . I can only heat some water for my children to drink and alleviate chest and respiratory pains,” Rond said. 

‘Immediate Actions’ 

According to another resident, Muatasim Jabr, this is part of Israel’s deliberate policy to kill Palestinians in every way possible. 

“They kill us by bombing and gunfire, but death by hunger is the most painful and agonizing. Killing through disease by spreading respiratory illnesses in the absence of treatment is also incredibly painful and deadly,” he said.

“Many respiratory diseases require oxygen, and the occupation destroyed the central oxygen room at Al-Shifa Hospital,” Jabr explained, adding that now there is only a small oxygen room at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

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“Unfortunately, it is insufficient to cover the thousands of cases in need of oxygen due to bombings, killings, and the spread of diseases,” the main said.

Jabr called on international institutions, the United States, Arab countries, and European countries to pressure the occupation to stop the war and to provide the basic needs for the residents of the Gaza Strip. 

“We need immediate action to save Gaza from the environmental, health, and humanitarian disasters caused by the occupation during this war”.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

Abdallah Aljamal is a Gaza-based journalist. He is a correspondent for The Palestine Chronicle in the Gaza Strip. His email is abdallahaljamal1987@gmail.com

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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