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Winter rains exacerbate suffering of Gazans displaced by Israel-Hamas war

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 pummeled the war-wracked 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 believed to have been displaced during more than two months of war, with many fleeing to southern Rafah as the IDF has called on Gazans to leave areas where it is battling Hamas.

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

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.”

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.”

  • On Tuesday, COGAT, the Israeli body which coordinates activity in the West Bank and Gaza, tweeted that it had “coordinated and facilitated the entry” of 50 bathroom stalls for shelters in Gaza, “with hundreds more stalls scheduled to arrive in the coming days.”

Aid agencies have repeatedly said that the level of aid flowing into Gaza is not nearly enough to counter the ever-growing need.

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

War erupted after Hamas’s shock onslaught on Israel on October 7 when thousands of terrorists rampaged through southern Israel, massacring 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking some 240 people hostage. Israel then launched its campaign against the terror group, vowing to eliminate its regime in the Gaza Strip, where it has ruled since 2007.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has claimed that, since the start of the war, more than 18,600 people have been killed, mostly civilians. These figures cannot be independently verified and are believed to include some 7,000 Hamas terrorists, according to Israel, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets. Another estimated 1,000 terrorists were killed in Israel during the October 7 onslaught.

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?”

Source: TOI