Palestinian territories shut down amid biggest snowstorm in seven years
Authorities in the Palestinian territories shut government offices, schools, universities and banks on Thursday, as a wave of snow swept across the country.
The day before the snowstorm - the biggest Palestine has seen in seven years - Palestinian police called on citizens to remain at home as far as possible. They closed several roads and told people to avoid using vehicles. Public transport services were also restricted.
In Hebron, where 20 centimetres of snow fell, local authorities took preventative measures “because of a lack of infrastructure preparedness”, Nadia Habash, head of the Palestinian engineers' union, told The New Arab.
The Oslo agreement of 1993 divided the occupied West Bank into three: Area A, Area B and Area C.
Area A is under the administrative and security control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) while Area B is administered by the PA with Israel controlling security.
Area C is under full administrative and security control of Israel.
Palestinian infrastructure in Areas B and C, which cover most of the West Bank, is "very poor", Habash said.
Preparations for the storm were made more difficult by the Israeli authorities, she added.
“On Wednesday night, we accompanied an emergency crew to a village just outside of Ramallah, to prepare for the coming storm," Habash said.
However according to Habash, "Israeli forces didn’t allow the bulldozer through".
"The lack of sovereignty is a major obstacle for us to have proper emergency services and infrastructure where we need it. This forces us to suspend life for the last wave of snow," the engineer added.
Khaled Ghazal, a member of the emergency team in Ramallah municipality, told The New Arab that “within the city, we have one of the most advanced infrastructures in the West Bank. but we still face many challenges”.
بسبب الثلوج.. انزلاق مركبة ونجاة ركابها أمام المستشفى الأهلي بمدينة الخليل. pic.twitter.com/DbUCSrtkki— الجرمق الإخباري (@aljarmaqnet) January 26, 2022
“We don’t have enough channels for rain water, and the network we do have was built through an accumulation of efforts over many years,” Ghazal said.
While Israeli settlers living nearby benefit from resilient infrastructure, Palestinians rely on people power, Ghazal said.
“We make up for the lack of capacities with a large number of volunteers and workers," he said.
“We try our best to bridge the gap in capacity between us and the Israeli settlements just half an hour away.”