Severe flooding caused by heavy snowfall and torrential rains has left Gaza in chaos, with aid agencies warning of a crisis for refugees living in tents and makeshift shelters. The entire area has suffered from fuel shortages and daily electricity cuts, including 21-hour blackouts.
With water stretching as far as the eye can see in many neighborhoods, the United Nations labeled the flood-damaged region "a disaster area." Gaza's Health Ministry declared a state of “extreme emergency."
The Guardian reports that tens of thousands of residents have fled their homes and sought refuge in schools and shelters. According to Chris Gunness, a United Nations Relief and Works Agency spokesman, the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza has "become a massive lake, with two-meter high water engulfing homes and leaving thousands stranded."
Speaking from Gaza, political activist and journalist Majed Abusalama told HuffPost Live's Ahmed Shihab-Eldin that the region is in a "state of emergency," criticizing Hamas and the international community for allowing weeks of suffering.
"They let us drown, Gaza is drowning. The people are dying and children are freezing, their hands are freezing, their feet are freezing, and nobody helps us," said Abusalama. "So we want a practical step toward the Palestinian justice. That's enough of talks, enough is enough really."
Thousands of U.N. workers helped evacuated families and distributed emergency supplies during the weekend, Reuters notes. Israel's military even briefly opened a border crossing to allow emergency supplies of heating gas and water pumps into Gaza.
According to the U.N., the crisis is aggravated by raw sewage leaking into the flood waters, increasing the risk of disease. Gaza has been unable to pump sewage for weeks, as power plants have shut down due to a lack of fuel.
On Sunday, Gaza's only power plant finally came back online for the first time in seven weeks. A $10 million grant from Qatar will cover the cost of two weeks worth of industrial diesel that began entering Gaza by truckload from Israel, the New York Times explains.
"This is not normal, and this is inhumane. We always have to cry and scream to the world when a storm happens, then they will look at us," Abusalama told HuffPostLive. "We want a sustainable economy, not just aid."