Palestinian media and officials are facing ridicule in the Israeli press for blaming the Israeli government for flooding the Gaza Strip by opening dams. But there's one problem: Israel says those alleged dams don't exist.
“Even the weather is fair game in Hamas’s war of words against Israel,” wrote the Times of Israel, while the blog Israelly Cool had this headline: “Palestinians and Supporters Open the Floodgates of Bullcrap.”
“[O]f course no crisis in Gaza can go to waste without blaming it on Israel,” Israelly Cool wrote.
The claim of Israel intentionally flooding Gaza has made headlines in the pro-Palestinian media over the past week in which a freak winter storm hit the Middle East with a deluge of rain and snow, including a once-in-a-century snowfall in neighboring Egypt.
The pro-Palestinian publication Middle East Monitor wrote on December 16th, “Israel has opened the Wadi Sofa Dam east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, flooding dozens of houses and leaving hundreds of people homeless.”
That claim appears to have originated with an announcement on Friday by the Hamas government's Disaster Response Committee, saying that Israel had opened dams just east of Gaza, “flooding numerous residential areas in nearby villages within the coastal territory,” reported Ma’an, an independent Palestinian news agency.
Mayor of Rafah Issa Nashar echoed the claim, saying on Sunday, "Israel has indeed opened the dam which led to drowning the neighboring areas with accumulated rain water up to 1 meter deep."
But Israeli officials contend no dams exist in the area. Uri Schor, a spokesman for Israel’s Water Authority, told the Times of Israel, “The allegation of [Israel] opening dams and flooding the Gaza Strip is baseless and false.”
Schor said that water reservoirs have overflowed across the entire area which caused flooding. Not only did Israel not cause the flooding, Israel sent aid to the Palestinians.
“Israel responded to a special appeal conveyed through the UN, transferring four high-power pumps to the Gaza Strip intended to help residents remove water from flooded areas,” he said.
Indeed the huge rainfall did cause extensive flooding in Gaza, as described thus in the Times of Israel:
The Gaza Strip was one of the areas most affected by the storm Alexa. Torrential rain caused widespread flooding, forcing some 40,000 residents to evacuate their homes as rescuers used rowboats to assist stranded civilians. UNRWA, a UN agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees, described parts of northern Gaza Strip as a disaster zone.
Rainfall of 260 millimeters (10.23 inches) was documented in the Gaza area between December 11 and 13, comprising a staggering 60 percent of the annual average for the region.
Another Palestinian official, Civil Defense spokesman Muhammad Al-Maidana, accused Israel of opening sewage canals near Gaza, “exacerbating the crisis and raising the water level, causing homes to be submerged.”
The Times of Israel found another report on the Palestinian website Al-Majd that even claimed Israel had opened the dams in an effort to expose Hamas smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza.
“For Gaza to drown is an old Zionist dream,” the site wrote.