Gaza's Looming Crisis: Overflowing Sewage, No Water

Israeli airstrikes continue as residents warned once more to leave

By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 16, 2014 7:44 AM CDT | Updated Jul 16, 2014 7:59 AM CDT

(Newser) – Israel has intensified its efforts against Hamas, claiming to have intercepted four rockets in Tel Aviv and bombed 39 targets—including the homes of several high-ranking Hamas leaders last night—after a brief ceasefire yesterday, the New York Times reports. But now residents of the Gaza Strip have a new problem: no water and overflowing sewage systems, reports NBC News. The continued airstrikes have reportedly caused massive damage to water and sewage infrastructure in Gaza and destroyed at least 560 homes, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, which is calling the situation an emergency. The Red Cross says the issue could "quickly turn into a catastrophe." "Within days, the entire population of the Strip may be desperately short of water," the Red Cross' Israeli chief said in a statement. "Water is becoming contaminated and sewage is overflowing, bringing a serious risk of disease."

The Israel Defense Forces have been warning Palestinian residents in northern towns and in parts of Gaza City to evacuate for the past several days through leaflets, text messages, and automated phone calls. In a warning distribution the Times calls "the broadest yet," Palestinians were given an 8am deadline today to get out of the area. "The IDF does not want to harm you or your families," the leaflets say. "Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families." According to the Times, Gaza’s Health Ministry says there have been at least 201 Palestinian deaths so far; one Israeli has been killed in the nine-day conflict.

A girl cries as Palestinians flee their homes in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, after Israel had airdropped leaflets warning people to leave the area on July 16, 2014.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
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