As many as 10 Palestinians were killed on Tuesday when the wall of a large cesspool in northern Gaza collapsed, flooding the village of Umm Nasser with raw sewage. Palestinian medical officials cited by the AP said dozens more people were wounded in the incident, and several more people were reported missing.
More than 3,000 people were forced to flee their homes by the rising toxic fluids. Many more in the area are now exposed to serious health risks.
The collapsed earthen embankment was caused by rapidly rising sewage levels in the cesspool, according to a Palestinian Water Authority official.
A spokesman for the ruling Hamas faction blamed the international community and its financial aid embargo against the Palestinian Authority for the poor infrastructure in Gaza that leads to such disasters.
But U.N. officials said they had been warning about the instability of this particular cesspool since 2004, two years before Hamas was elected to office and the sanctions were imposed.
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to provide medical assistance to the Palestinians, as well as whatever was needed to quickly repair the collapsed wall.
The Palestinians turned down the Israeli aid offer, insisting that they could handle the situation on their own.