Storm Adds to Misery of Gaza’s Most Vulnerable

Jan 10, 2015 by


capsule hit by heavy rain and winds. ” data-mediaviewer-credit=”Adel Hana/Associated Press” />

Palestinians gathered around a fire Friday in a damaged building in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, hit by heavy rain and winds.  Credit Adel Hana/Associated Press

GAZA — As a winter storm continued to pound the Middle East, thousands of Gaza residents whose homes were destroyed or damaged in last summer’s war with Israel struggled with the harsh weather for a third day, and a 4-month-old baby from the southern part of the territory died on Friday from complications caused by the bitter cold, Palestinian health officials and relatives said.

The baby, Rahaf Abu Assi, the youngest of 10 children, had been sick all winter, living in a house in Al Zanna, near Khan Younis, that lacked doors, windows or toilets, according to her uncle. He said the house had been hit by Israeli bombs and shells.

Ashraf al-Qedra, a spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, said Rahaf was taken to a hospital on Thursday with clogged bronchial tubes, and died at dawn on Friday.

“Our life is tragic,” the uncle, Yousri Abu Assi, said in a telephone interview. He said the family covered the window openings with plastic sheets and sometimes burned “paper and coal inside the destroyed house to bring some warmth.”


A boy was rescued Friday from his home in Rafah. Thousands of homes in Gaza were damaged in last year’s war with Israel.  Credit Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

“The cold stole Rahaf from her mother,” he added. “Her heart is broken.”

The storm has wrought death and misery among the most vulnerable, with high winds, heavy rain and snowfall across a region where snow is rare.

A spokesman for the Jordanian Interior Ministry said that a Syrian woman and her 12-year-old grandson, who had recently left the Zaatari refugee camp, died on Friday after inhaling fumes from a gas heater in their apartment, and that three other members of their family were hospitalized in critical condition.

Three Syrians, including an 8-year-old boy, died on Wednesday while trying to cross into Lebanon. Al Jazeera broadcast a video of twin babies who died from the cold in Douma, a besieged area in the Damascus suburbs held by insurgents. The babies were being buried in a cardboard box.

Aid workers in Lebanon and Jordan scrambled to distribute thousands of blankets, clothes, heaters and other supplies to Syrian refugees and others living in tents and makeshift shelters.

In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians had to evacuate flooded homes in the southern cities of Rafah and Khan Younis, according to Ma’an, an independent news agency. Seven people were injured on Thursday by roof collapses in the area, and two more were hurt when high winds toppled a water tank into their home.

Scores of families in the destroyed village of Khuza’a packed sandbags around the leaky caravans where they have been living for months as they wait for stalled reconstruction efforts to resume.

“We woke up to find our blankets full of water,” one caravan resident, Abu Bassam Najjar, said in a telephone interview Friday. “These caravans are useless. Our officials launch wars and then leave us outdoors. While we are dying slowly, our officials are sitting inside their homes in front of fireplaces.”

Raed al-Dahshan, the director of civil defense operations in Gaza, said his crews were working “around the clock,” but lacked the equipment and fuel required to respond to the emergency.

“I can say we don’t even have any infrastructure — the latest war destroyed everything,” Mr. Dahshan said in an interview. “The world gets happy when rain falls. But in Gaza, rain means misery for people and more humanitarian crises.”

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