|flooding drives 40,000 Gazans from their homes||
Flooding from heavy rains forced some 40,000 Gaza Strip residents from their homes, including thousands who were taken to safety in boats and military trucks, officials said Saturday, according to AP.
The downpour that began late Wednesday was part of a storm that covered parts of occupied Palestine and the West Bank with snow.
Even Gaza with its milder coastal climate saw some snow, though lower-lying areas were mainly hit by flooding.
Rescue efforts were hampered by fuel shortages and rolling power cuts that have become more severe in recent months, since Egypt tightened a border blockade of the territory, ruled by Hamas since 2007.
Israel has also restricted access to Gaza since the Hamas takeover.
Once the storm is over, "the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza," said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the main UN aid agency in the territory. Gaza residents "must be freed from these man-made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this," he added.
The storm hit Gaza at a time when it is buckling under the tightened border closure by Egypt. Over the summer, Egypt's military intensified its blockade after ousting Egypt's Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, a Hamas ally.
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