Gazans queue up for water amid a heatwave

Forcibly displaced Gazans queue for water amid soaring tempeatures in the embattled strip in Rafah on April 25, 2024.

(Photo: UNRWA)

Amid Israeli Bombs, Bullets, and Blockade, Gazans Now Face Suffocating Heat

"The tent feels like it's on fire," said one young refugee mother. "It's so hot you can't bear it, especially with young children."

Just a few months ago, Palestinian children exposed to the elements amid Israel's genocidal assault on of Gaza were dying of hypothermia. Now they're facing potentially deadly heat as temperatures soar to over 100°F in the embattled strip, where hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced people are sweltering in tents and other makeshift shelters.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) warned Friday that "unexpected blistering temperatures across Gaza have added to the daily misery faced by the enclave's people and sparked new fears of disease outbreaks amid a lack of sufficient clean water and waste disposal."

"It is so hard. It's a heat that I can't describe."

Although there was a repsite Friday, temperatures in Gaza have soared as high as 108°F in recent days, and it's not even May yet. During the hotter summer months, the mercury can soar to over 120°F. Even with air conditioning and refrigeration during less trying times, Gazans often struggled with the summertime heat.

Now those luxuries are gone, replaced by suffocating heat, privation, and the ever-present threat of death or injury from Israeli bombs and bullets as the approximately 1.5 million people sheltering in Rafah brace for an impending invasion.

Many refugees are sheltering in structures made from heat-trapping agricultural greenhouses.

"The tent feels like it's on fire," Maryam Arafat, a young mother of three, toldThe New York Times earlier this week as her infant daughter screamed in discomfort. "It's so hot you can't bear it, especially with young children."

Gaza City refugee Mustafa Radwan told U.N. News that "it is like living in a greenhouse, no one can tolerate living inside."

Arafat and Radwan are but two of the approximately 2 million Palestinians forced from their homes by Israel's relentless bombardment and invasion of Gaza following the October 7 attacks.

Day after day, refugees are forced to wait in long lines for water and other necessities. Safe drinking water is particularly hard to find. Ice is nonexistent.

"Everything is a queue, everything is suffering in displacement," lamented Radwan.

Arafat said: "Everything has become difficult in this world. There is no water."

The scorching heat only adds to the misery. So do recent decisions—trees that were chopped down in the cold months for heating and cooking fuel are no longer there to provide shade as spring marches into summer.

Warmer temperatures also bring insects, some of which carry diseases.

"We can't sit outside and we can't sit inside the tent," Fadwa Abu Waqfa, another mother of three living in a tent in Rafah, told the Times. "It is so hard. It's a heat that I can't describe."

Dr. Ahmed Hanouda, director of a pop-up clinic in the Mawasi area of the devastated southern city of Khan Younis, told U.N. Newsthat "with the onset of summer, difficulties increase from water scarcity and overcrowding, leading to the spread of infectious diseases, skin sensitivities, lice, and other illnesses."

"We are, of course, trying to address these problems and provide services to the displaced people under these challenging circumstances based on the available resources," Hanouda added. "We look forward to offering better services and providing better facilities in the coming days."

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