According to Oxfam, 2.1 million people are facing shortages of water and power after 11 days of bombing and rocket barrages between Hamas Militants and the Israeli military in Gaza City.
Oxfam’s Shane Stevenson, country director in the occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, said that about 400,000 people do no have access to regular water supply and that three of Gaza’s main desalination plans had been ‘severely impacted’ by the bombing attacks.
A further 100,000 Palestinians are estimated to have been displaced as a result of the bombardment and are trying to return home.
“Every one of the 2.1 million people living in the Gaza strip has been affected by Israel’s bombing that took 240 lives, destroyed or damaged 258 buildings containing nearly 1,042 homes and commercial offices, and devastated vital public services,” Stevenson said.
“Water is doubly important, during this critical phase of the Coronavirus pandemic, to help people limit the spread of COVID-19. Six hospitals and 11 clinics have also been damaged including the only COVID-19 laboratory in Gaza,” he added.
Access to water is also dependent on fuel for electricity to pump clean water from wells into homes. Because the recent bombings have led to a fuel shortage, Stevenson explained that many hundreds of thousands of people will be without water and therefore access to basic hygiene.
Oxfam spoke with a mother from Northern Gaza, Amal, who told the agency that her family was getting about four hours of sporadic electricity per day.
“Water might be available for one hour, but we won’t have electricity to pump the water to the roof tank. We stay up all night looking for water to fill plastic buckets,” Amal said.
According to Stevenson, after Israeli authorities stopped bombing the area, they began restricting fuel deliveries.
Oxfam reports that many small businesses are also reeling after the devastation because they are either experiencing electricity cuts or the office buildings they used to operate from have been destroyed.
Fishermen too are suffering because authorities have denied them access to a common fishing zone, the group says. About 3,600 fishermen are estimated to have no daily income and limited food.
“Meeting people’s immediate humanitarian needs is critical now. But Gaza cannot rebuild without addressing the root causes of the conflict,” Stevenson said.
“The international community must ensure concrete political action to bring an end to the occupation and the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
The threat of COVID-19 in the region also continues to loom with over 30,000 positive cases reported in Gaza and the West Bank and more than 3,700 deaths due to the virus.
In mid May Australia’s Ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, Mitch Fifield, issued a statement condemning the ‘escalating violence in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank’. He called on all leaders to ‘exercise restraint’ and end the violence, concluding with the statement that Australia strongly supported a ‘two-state solution to the conflict’.
“Australia condemns the relentless and indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas. The State of Israel unquestionably has the right to defend itself and its people in accordance with international law. Equally, the Palestinian people must be able to live peacefully,” Fifield’s statement said.
“The focus of all parties must be on a return to direct and genuine peace negotiations as soon as possible, with a view to defining a just, durable and resilient peace agreement. To support this objective, we urge all parties to refrain from violent or provocative acts, or actions that increase tensions.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken landed in the Middle East on Wednesday to hold urgent talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders about humanitarian and reconstruction efforts, as well as ensure that a five-day ceasefire will hold.