Four Gazans, Including Three Newborns, Freeze to Death

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A Palestinian kid looks through a hole on a wall of the building which was destroyed by Israeli strikes in Shujaiyya neighborhood of Gaza City, Gaza on January 03, 2014. Anadolu/Ashraf Amra

Published Sunday, January 11, 2015

A baby and a young man were found dead in Gaza on Saturday, bringing the total death toll in winter storm Huda to four after Palestinians in the tiny coastal enclave endured their coldest night of the storm yet.

On Saturday afternoon, a two-month-old baby girl was found dead in a shelter for the displaced in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.

A relative of the baby told Ma'an news agency that two-month-old Salma Zeidan al-Masri was found dead in the Rashad al-Shawwa shelter in Beit Hanoun. The relative said the child had turned blue from the cold by the time she was found.

A young fisherman was also found dead in Gaza on Saturday, having perished due to the extreme cold.

Nizar Ayyash, head of the Gaza Fishermen's Union, told Ma'an that Ahmad Sufian al-Lahham, 22, died while working on the shore west of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

The deaths on Saturday afternoon came after a newborn was found dead earlier in the day.

One-month-old baby Adel Maher al-Lahham succumbed to severe cold in his home in western Khan Younis.

Two-month-old infant Rahaf Abu Assi, meanwhile, died of severe cold on Friday in Rafah due to lung problems caused by the cold.

Her family was living in a home that was partially destroyed by Israel during bombardment over the summer.

In the four days since Storm Huda landed in the Holy Land, scores of families in Gaza have been evacuated from their homes due to flooding.

Severe flooding is being reported in parts of the southern Gaza Strip, particularly affecting families living in mobile homes and others displaced by the Israeli assault.

Gaza's civil defense service said that dozens of homes in the coastal territory, already ravaged by the Israeli summer assault on the Palestinian enclave, were flooded in the brutal storms that brought freezing rain and gale-force winds.

Raed al-Dahshan, head of Gaza's civil defense, said his staff were facing "a difficult situation which was compounded by a lack of infrastructure" to help those suffering from the storm.

Due to the eight-year-old Israeli siege on Gaza, the vast majority of those displaced by the war have been unable to rebuild and many are left living in mobile homes or other substandard forms of housing.

The situation is aggravated by the lack of fuel for electric power, meaning that power is available roughly eight hours a day, with occasional cuts on top of that.

Gaza's sole power station, which was damaged during the war, is struggling with a severe lack of fuel and is only able to supply the enclave with six hours of power per day.

The lack of fuel is also result of the Israeli siege, which limits Palestinians' ability to import fuel for the electric power station in Gaza as well as for domestic needs like heating.

Gaza's sole power station, which was damaged during the war, is struggling with a severe lack of fuel and is only able to supply the enclave with six hours of power per day.

Gaza is also prone to severe flooding, exacerbated by a chronic lack of fuel that limits how much water can be pumped out of flood-stricken areas. The fuel shortages are a result of the eight-year Israeli blockade, which limits the import of other kinds of machinery related to pumping and sewage management that could help Gazans combat the floods. The most recent war has exacerbated the crisis.

Gazans are now living by candlelight and wood fire because of electricity shortages, and rely on sandbags to stop their ruined homes from flooding. Some Gazans have sought shelter in the Sheikh Shaaban cemetery outside Gaza City, living in makeshift hut and tents.

More than 96,000 Gaza homes were destroyed or damaged during last year's 51-day conflict and UN welfare officials say that 17,000 displaced people are still living in schools.

Moreover, the UN said as many as 1,500 children have been orphaned by Israeli attacks that killed more than 2,300 Palestinians, while 6,000 children will have a parent with a lifelong disability.

The majority of Gaza’s 110,000 homeless people are children.

The storms have also struck other countries in the region with three Syrian refugees – including a baby – dying of cold in Lebanon.

Sources also told Al-Akhbar that a one-week-old was found dead in a Ersal refugee camp. The report has yet to be confirmed by officials.

(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)


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