Daily Israel Report

Israel Offers Assistance in Wake of Gaza Sewage Disaster

After raw sewage swept through a village in the northern Gaza Strip Tuesday afternoon, Def. Min. Peretz instructed the IDF to provide assistance.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 3/27/2007, 2:49 PM

Israel has offered assistance to hundreds of Palestinian Authority Arabs affected by a flood of raw sewage that swept through a Bedouin village in the northern Gaza Strip Tuesday afternoon. Defense Minister Amir Peretz instructed the IDF to prepare for the possibility of evacuating the injured to Israeli hospitals. The village, Umm Nasser, is near Beit Lahiya and less than a kilometer from the Gaza Strip border with Israel.

At least 25 houses in the 200-family village were immediately swamped when the local sewage system's cesspool wall collapsed and pipes burst. Between six and nine people are reported dead, dozens are injured and some 200 are unaccounted for. Hundreds fled or were evacuated by rescuers, and armed Hamas members rushed to the area to search for victims trapped in the rubble of the decimated village.

The IDF is prepared to evacuate the injured to Israeli hospitals.

Angry residents attacked rescue workers, drove reporters out of the area and mobbed government officials who arrived at the scene. When PA Interior Minister Hani Kawasmeh arrived to survey the damage, his bodyguards fired in the air to disperse the crowd.

While Umm Nasser Council Member Ziad Abu Farieh called the flood "our own tsunami," PA officials laid the blame for the disaster on Israel and the Western powers. According to PA Environment Minister Yousef Safia, Israel threatened to bomb previously planned construction work for a modern sewage system in the area.

A Gaza-based spokesman for the ruling Hamas terrorist organization, Fawzi Barhoum, blamed Western economic sanctions on the Islamist-led PA for the dilapidated infrastructure in Gaza. Foreign funding for several sewage treatment projects was frozen by the donor nations after Hamas was voted into power in PA elections last year. PA Water Authority Director Fadel Kawash said that there had been a sewage treatment project underway for two years before it was ended due to what he called "troubles." He blamed Tuesday's accident on the poor local infrastructure as well.