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Amid Flooding Disaster Gazans Call to Open Borders

UN: "A community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamityā€¯

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

A member of the Palestinian civil defense paddles a boat as he evacuates a man and his children after their house was flooded with rainwater on a stormy day in the northern Gaza Strip December 14. (Photo: Mohammed Salem/ Reuters)Palestinians in the Gaza Strip received their first fuel shipment in over 45 days Sunday, after cries for relief from the torrential rains and unprecedented flooding were met with a temporary loosening of the Israeli blockade on the territory.

According to the United Nations, over 10,000 Palestinians were displaced after a rare winter storm and torrential rains turned large swathes of the region into a "disaster area."

"Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye can see. Areas around Jabalia have become a massive lake with two meter high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands," UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said in a statement published by the Ma'an News Agency Saturday.

An Israeli blockade, imposed in an attempt to unseat the Hamas-led government, limits the import of everything from building materials to inexpensive fuel leaving Palestinians in Gaza with widespread food insecurity, a shortage of potable water and the inability to power their homes and businesses—a tenuous situation, that relief workers say was exacerbated by the current crisis.

Before the storm hit, the 1.8 million people living in the Gaza strip have endured daily blackouts of around 12 hours since the territory's lone power plant was switched off last month due to a fuel shortage, Al Jazeera reports.

"We have distributed five thousand of litres of fuel to local pumping stations, but the situation is dire and with the flood waters rising, the risk of water borne disease can only increase," Gunness continues. "This is a terrible situation which can only get worse before it gets better."

“This is a serious disaster,” Isra Almodallal, a Hamas spokesperson, told The Electronic Intifada. “With the lack of fuel and electricity, the government is trying hard to help with limited resources. Unless the borders are reopened and the needed equipment is allowed in, it will be difficult for us to handle this crisis.”

According to Palestinian border official Raed Fattouh, Sunday's fuel shipment was paid for by Qatar. Following Saturday's plea for help, Israel temporarily lifted their seige and permitted the delivery.

“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this,” Gunness added.

"When all this is over, the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza."

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