Gazans swim in a clean sea for the first time in years
Once the summer vacation began, thousands of Gazan families flocked to the shores to spend their time enjoying cool blue sea water and warm yellow sand without any traces of pollution.
Nidal al-Shurbasi, a Gaza-based father of seven, spent a beautiful time at the sea with his family. Speaking to The New Arab, the 45-year-old said, "In the past, I was very jealous when I saw some celebrities sharing pictures of them on their beaches and the sea behind them seemed clear blue (...) but here we were suffering from polluted water and we could hardly swim in it."
Not far away from al-Shurbasi, Omaia Doghmush was busy watching her children swim in the sea. "We came here to spend a good time with our children during their summer school vacation," the 38-year-old mother of three told The New Arab.
"The thing that caught my eye the most is the cleanliness of the seawater and the beaches, in addition to the people's interest here in maintaining the cleanliness of the shores," she said.
Doghmush explained that she no longer fears that her children would suffer from skin diseases as a result of their swimming in the sea, as was the case in the past.
She called on the local authorities to preserve the sea water and not allow sewage to be drained into the sea.
The Gaza Strip is a coastal area bordering the Mediterranean Sea. However, for many years Palestinians have suffered from marine pollution due to the pumping of untreated sewage into it, which limited the local population's swimming opportunities.
But this year it looks different, says Mohammed Musleh, director of the Environmental Resources Department at the Hamas-run Water and Sanitation Authority.
He told The New Arab that internationally funded sewage treatment facilities have ramped up operations across the Gaza Strip, reducing pollution to its lowest levels in many years.
He added that his ministry treats a large proportion of sewage water before it is pumped into the sea, making 65 per cent of the beach safe and clean. He further noted that they will work to implement plans to increase the rate of sewage treatment.
The Gaza Sea's new condition contributed to the revival of rest houses and cafes spread on the coastal strip, while the owners of these cafes expressed their satisfaction with the current season.
"Compared to the previous years, there is an unusually large number of vacationers," said Mohammed al-Naouq, the owner of a cafeteria and a beach lounge in the city of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza Strip.
"People here love life and are always looking for opportunities that give them happiness, especially since they have lived through difficult security conditions during the past year due to the recent Israeli war and its disastrous consequences for the population," he added.
Since 2007, Israel has been imposing a tightened blockade on the coastal enclave, after Hamas controlled the territory following rounds of internal fighting with its rival Fatah movement.
As a result, most of the Gazans cannot travel abroad, as the poverty and unemployment rate is about 50 percent.
Moreover, the Israeli army launched four-large scale military wars against the Gazans, killing thousands of civilians and destroying houses and infrastructure.