It has been reported in the past several days, by Ma’an News and on several websites including this one, that Israel may have opened one or more dams resulting in the severe flooding we have seen in Gaza and further exacerbated conditions already made dire by the onslaught of winter storm Alexa. This at any rate is the charge that has been made by the Gaza government’s Disaster Response Committee and its chairman, Yasser Shanti.
So far I myself have heard no official response from Israel either confirming or denying. However, the following is reported by the Middle East Monitor:
According to Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the rainfall led to a lot of excess water which couldn’t drain away, so “the Israeli authorities resorted to discharging the excess water into the Gaza Strip.”
I could not find this reported on Ynet’s English website, but it’s possible it was reported in the Hebrew edition. So was a dam released? All we have to go on is the statement by Shanti, accompanied, of course, by the shocking images we have seen of inundated streets, flooded homes, and people paddling in boats. But I did come across this video and thought I would share it. If it turns out that a dam or floodgate of some sort was deliberately released, it apparently would not be without precedent. The following was reported by Press TV in January of 2010—and take special note of what the reporter says regarding the flooding and its coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the close of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.
If Israel did this in 2010, does it begger belief they would have done the same thing again this past week? If they did, the question then becomes did they do it out of a) a need to divert flooding from their own communities in Israel, or b) pure malice?
The question of whether a dam was opened or floodwater in some way diverted is addressed in a report on the Gaza flooding published at The Ecologist, an environmental website:
Amid the chaos it is impossible to verify the accusations. The heavy rain has also affected bordering areas of Israel and whether or not dams have been deliberately opened, drainage systems in Sderot and other cities were certainly overwhelmed by the volume of water.
What is certain is that low-lying Gaza, on the coastal plain, lacking functioning drainage and sewage systems, would in any case suffer most severely from the rainfall. Moreover Israel already stands accused of deliberately running down basic santitation services in Gaza in order to make life unlivable for its residents.
And as Gaza resident Fidaa Abuassi points out: “Unlike their neighbors in Sderot Gaza’s refugees have nowhere to flee when heavy rains flood their 25-mile occupied territory, blockaded by land, air, and sea.”
Even as the floodwaters recede, there may be worse to come. The report warns of what most likely is an “impending health catastrophe” in the making, with a flare up of respiratory and skin diseases brought on by constant exposure to sewage water and lack of medical supplies.
Since I posted this article yesterday, Israel and its supporters have unleashed an avalanche of denials of any involvement in the flooding of Gaza. The following is from an article published today at the Times of Israel:
The allegation of [Israel] opening dams and flooding the Gaza Strip is baseless and false,” Uri Schor, a spokesman for Israel’s Water Authority told The Times of Israel in an email correspondence Wednesday. No dams even exist in the area, he added, noting that water reservoirs have overflowed across the country, causing flooding.
“The opposite is true: due to the damage caused by the storm — which affected all neighboring countries and not only the Palestinian Authority — Israel responded to a special appeal conveyed through the UN, transferring four high-power pumps to the Gaza Strip intended to help residents remove water from flooded areas.”