Gaza: Beach-goers enjoy clean seawater for first time in years

i24NEWS - Reuters

3 min read
Palestinians gather on a beach in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, on June 10, 2022.
MOHAMMED ABED / AFPPalestinians gather on a beach in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, on June 10, 2022.

'We couldn’t come before because the sea was polluted. If we did, my children would come home with viruses'

A refreshing, unusual scene in the Gaza Strip last week – locals enjoying clean seawater after years of untreated sewage flowing directly into their coastal waters.

For years, untreated sewage flowed directly into Gaza’s waters, leading to an environmental disaster that ruined one of the few affordable opportunities for swimming on the coastal strip.

“We couldn’t come before because the sea was polluted, and if we did, my children would come home with viruses. We suffered a lot from skin diseases,” Sahar Abu Bashir told Reuters.

“But today, my kids are swimming, and I feel that we aren't going home with any diseases,” she said.

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This summer season is different, as sewage treating facilities across the Palestinian enclave – funded heavily by EcoPeace, an Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian NGO – are reducing pollution to its lowest rate in years.

Gaza’s Environment Quality and Water Authority, run by de facto rulers Hamas, said sewage dumped into the sea was now partially treated, making 65 percent of the beach safe and clean.

The enclave's shores were packed last week as locals poured onto the beach under scorching temperatures. 

With most of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians not able to travel – partly due to high rates of poverty and unemployment as well as Israeli and Egyptian border restrictions over security concerns with the Islamist militant group Hamas – a cooling beach offers some escape from the harsh reality they face.

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