Hundreds of Palestinians were forced to evacuate their homes in the Gaza Strip over the weekend after water levels in the Gaza Valley rose up to almost 10 feet — floods which have led to accusations from Palestinians and a denial of responsibility from Israeli officials.
The Gaza Ministry of Interior is blaming Israel for the floods that forced residents to flee parts of the UN-run refugee camp of al Bureji and the neighborhood of al Zahra, which are both in the middle of the strip.
"Opening the levees to the canal has led to the flooding of several Palestinian homes, and we had to quickly evacuate the afflicted citizens," the ministry said in a statement.
"Israel opened water dams, without warning, last night, causing serious damage to Gazan villages near the border," Brigadier Gerneral Said al Saudi, chief of the civil defense agency in Gaza, told Al Jazeera. "More than 40 homes were flooded and 80 families are currently in shelters as a result."
"We are appealing to human rights organizations and international rights organizations to intervene to prevent further such action," he added.
Israeli officials categorically denied they were to blame while speaking to VICE News on Monday.
"These claims, I don't know who started them, but they are completely false," a spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Palestinian Territories (COGAT) told VICE News. "There are no dams in the southern part of Israel so we couldn't open any dams because there aren't any. I don't know how these rumors got around."
The videos below, shared by Gaza-based photographer Majdi Fathi, show the extent of the flooding.
Gaza is prone to flooding, which is a problem only exacerbated by chronic fuel shortages that make it difficult to pump out excess water.
Over the past few days, the strip has been pounded by a heavy storm and freezing temperatures — a major issue for more than 110,000 residents that remain homeless following the war that ravaged the region this summer.
Reconstruction has all but stalled there, and Palestinian and UN officials have repeatedly warned that the situation in the strip has become dangerously unsustainable.
"I do expect another round of violence to come from the lack of reconstruction and reconciliation," Omar Shaban, director of the Gaza-based independent think tank PalThink for Strategic Studies, told VICE News in January. "Things are not going in the right direction."
Meanwhile on Monday, Israel's national electricity company temporarily cut off power to the West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus, as a "warning" over unpaid debts amounting to $487 million, according to the company.
Israel controls access to all utilities in the occupied Palestinian territories, and recently froze the transfer of Palestinian tax revenue in retaliation for the Palestinian Authority (PA) seeking recognition on the international stage.
Speaking with VICE News in January, Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi called the move "a very dangerous policy."
"If you want to destroy the PA, or bring about a break down, you know that there will be a breakout of violence and instability, and that's something that cannot be contained," she warned.
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