[Friday, December 13, 2013] A winter storm of unparalleled dimensions has left hundreds of families in Gaza homeless, the Middle East Monitor has reported.Local Palestinian sources have told the Palestine Information Centre that hundreds of homes across the Gaza Strip are now flooded, as civil defense and rescue teams struggle to provide assistance to those affected by the storm.

The Hamas ruled government in Gaza stated that 15 rescue shelters had been opened to accommodate displaced families in Gaza, mainly in the central and northern towns. According to local emergency units, dozens of homes were flooded, as the water level increased, when Israel opened the dams, east of Deir al-Balah.

According to local residents, Israel opened the dam unexpectedly in Wadi al-Salqa, flooding nearly twenty houses in al Mashaalah area, south of Deir al-Balah.

Civil defence crews evacuated those who were trapped, while local authorities attempted to set up sand dams in order to control the water flow. Also flooded are a number of homes in the northern Gaza Strip and al Berka, northwest of Gaza City.

Meanwhile, in Wadi Gaza, families were evacuated due to concerns over the rising water level.

In Khan Yunis, nearly 100 homes housing 20 families have been destroyed. The families have been moved to shelters.

The Ministry of Social Affairs said that it has provided nearly 500 families (3,200 people) with shelter and emergency aid, including food and bedding.

Local Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is urging the international community to help Gazans during this natural disaster.