Monday, 25 August 2014

Water delivery drivers dice with death in war-torn Gaza


GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Mohammed al-Khatib fears for his life every time he gets behind the wheel. In wartime, providing drinking water to homes and schools in Gaza means dicing with death.

At 23, Khatib is a veteran of two previous wars between Hamas and Israel, in 2008 and 2012, but nothing prepared him for the bombings, shredded nerves and death toll this time around.

"When I'm driving, I always feel frightened, upset and nervous," he tells AFP in the small warehouse where he loads up his truck with drinking water, as Israeli air strikes boom in the distance.

It's an essential job in Gaza, where at least 90 percent of municipal running water is not fit to drink and war damage means that for many people the only water comes from private vendors or desalination plants.

But at his boss Hossam Huneif's desalination plant, down a sandy track in Gaza City, Khatib is one of the few drivers who turn up. Many of the regulars have stayed away since war broke out in July.

Khatib says he is exhausted by over-working, and lack of security, fuel and electricity. Then there are the horrors he has encountered.

"Perhaps I'll go to fill a house with water and find that house has been targeted by an Israeli air strike.

"For example, the Mata family -- I always filled their tank, then one day we went and their house wasn't there anymore. It was bombed."

Three of his friends have been killed and others have been injured. At home his family of eight has swollen to 30, as they welcome in refugees escaping the worst fighting in eastern Gaza. more

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