News / Middle East

    Sewage Swamps Gaza Streets as Egyptian Tunnel Closures Cut Off Power

    Palestinian children try to cross a waste water - flooded street in Gaza City,  Nov. 14, 2013.
    Palestinian children try to cross a waste water - flooded street in Gaza City, Nov. 14, 2013.
    Reuters
    Children waded through sewage submerging the streets of a central Gaza neighborhood on Thursday, a day after one of the blockaded Palestinian enclave's largest waste water treatment plants stopped for lack of fuel.
     
    Fetid muck, which bubbles up from manholes and overflows from the idle plant when waste goes untreated, could soon spill into the homes of tens of thousands more residents in downtown Gaza City, officials and residents said.
     
    Egypt's months-long crackdown on cross-border smuggling tunnels that used to bring fuel in cheaply has already forced Gaza's only power plant to stop, meaning two weeks of daily 12-hour blackouts for the territory's 1.8 million residents.
     
    “This is the start of a catastrophe and unless the world listens to our cries, a real disaster may hit Gaza and its people,” Gaza municipality's Sa'ad El-Deen Al-Tbash said.
     
    “This is a humanitarian, not a political issue. Gaza's children did nothing to deserve being stuck in sewage,” he told Reuters.
     
    Gazan municipality officials said the treatment plant served 120,000 residents. They warned that other waste water facilities may soon run out of petrol to fuel generators.
     
    Along one street, passersby covered their noses, and some residents driving donkey carts helped those slogging through pools of waste.
     
    Egypt's closure of most of the estimated 1,200 tunnels run by the Islamist Hamas group has virtually stopped Egyptian fuel coming into Gaza, forcing Palestinians to buy Israeli imported petrol at double the price - 6.7 shekels ($1.9) a liter.
     
    Egypt's military backed government fear the tunnels are used to take weapons into the Sinai Peninsula, and accuse Hamas of backing the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which was ousted by the security forces in July.
     
    Israel has imposed its own blockade on Gaza, allowing in fuel and a restricted list of imports since Hamas took control in 2007. Hamas has spurned Western calls to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

    Mixing fuel
     
    Unable to buy the expensive Israeli fuel, some Gaza taxi drivers have looked for alternatives in their kitchens, using gas from domestic tanks or mixing cooking oil with diesel.
     
    “I can't fill my car with Israeli petrol ... I couldn't make a living if I did,” said a Gaza taxi driver who installed a bottle of cooking gas in his vehicle.
     
    He asked not to give his name to avoid hefty police fines for using the fuels, which are deemed a health hazard.
     
    Despite the risks, the practice is widespread.
     
    “Passing through some Gaza streets, it smells like a big pot of french fries,” quipped one Gaza Facebook user.
     
    Gaza economist Maher Al-Tabbaa' said the shortages of fuel and power meant that many businesses could not afford to run a generator, which costs about 100 shekels ($28.5) an hour.
     
    “The continuing stoppage of the Gaza power plant for 18 hours a day foreshadows a real catastrophe that might affect the basic food security of the people as well as the health and education sectors,” Tabbaa' said.
     
    The fuel shortage is affecting life at every level.
     
    Residents have taken to planning their social lives around the power cuts. Many make sure not to leave homes in the evening without a torch.
     
    “The first question someone asks when invited over by a friend is 'will there be electricity? I don't want to climb the stairs',” said Ali Mohammed, an electrician.
     
    “I blame the whole world,” he said.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    Diplomats Hope to Revive Cradle of Civilization After Defeat of IS

    Diplomats from around globe gather at US State Department, discuss how to rebuild minority communities shattered by Islamic State group

    Women Voters Look Past Gender in Assessing Clinton

    She's the first female presidential nominee, but party identification, other factors outweigh gender

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora