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Palestinians In Gaza Spoof Van Damme Video To Highlight Energy Crisis

A group of Palestinians in Gaza have spoofed a Volvo ad featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme to shed light on the growing humanitarian crisis in the coastal strip. They'd love to do Van Damme's epic split, "but unfortunately there is no gas in town."

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JERUSALEM — It's been five weeks since Gaza's main power plant shut down, and one Palestinian comedic troupe is trying to do something to raise international attention.

Tahwesh Gaza, or Gaza Jamming, has spoofed the Volvo ad in which a camera zooms out to show Jean Claude Van Damme doing a perfect split between two trucks driving in parallel. The ad, which has over 58 million views, is for the "stability and precision of Volvo dynamic steering."

In the Palestinian version of the ad, Mahmoud Zuiter, a 28-year-old member of Tahwesh Gaza, stands on the hoods of two cars being pushed by a group of young men.

"There is no gas in town," Zuiter says in the video, speaking in the same low monotone as Van Damme. "The water turns on when the electricity cuts off. I miss taking a shower!"

View this video on YouTube

It's a comedic take on what has become an increasingly dire situation in the Gaza Strip. The group said that by making the video, it hopes to lift the "veil of silence" and bring world attention to the crisis in Gaza.

International human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the World Health Organization (WHO), have blamed both Israel and Egypt for failing to meet the needs of the over 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza.

"In the beginning it was 12 hours a day with no electricity. Now, we are lucky if we get just four to five hours a day with electricity," Muhammed Al-Dira, a father of six, told BuzzFeed by phone from Gaza City. "Winter is here, the rains are here, the children are cold and we are struggling to cook, keep them warm, even shower them."

In a news conference on Sunday, Hamas officials announced that as winter weather increased demand on power plants, electricity would become even more limited.

"It has become impossible for the electricity company to meet the minimum power needs of the population of the Gaza Strip," said Jamal Dardasawi, spokesman for the main electricity authority in Gaza. He said electricity available in Gaza is now down to 25% of what is needed and is expected to fall to less than 20% during winter weather conditions.

Dardasawi said the situation was even more dismal in southern Gaza, where the Egyptian grid that supplies power to the areas around Rafah and Khan Younis was completely disconnected last week.

The lack of fuel in Gaza is a key reason electricity is failing. Palestinians have relied on tunnels between Gaza and Egypt to supplement the fuel Israel sends each day. Until July of this year, Gaza was receiving 50% of its fuel needs through the tunnels, according to Palestinian officials.

Since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian officials have shut down many of the tunnels, including those that provided fuel. Egyptian Maj. Gen. Ahmad Ibrahim said in October that nearly 800 tunnels had been destroyed, roughly 95% of existing tunnels.

Hamas officials in Gaza tried to replace the missing Egyptian fuel with other sources, but say that the fuel they receive from Israel is hugely overpriced — largely due to taxes imposed by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

"The Egyptians are choking us and the Palestinian officials can't get along long enough to ease this shortage," Walid Hamid, a political science student, told BuzzFeed from Gaza.

In addition to shutting down the power plants, the fuel shortage has caused Gaza's frail water and sewage system to shut down, prompting areas of Gaza City to be flooded with untreated sewage.

Recent rains have exacerbated the situation, as rain water mixed with raw sewage to pollute the underground aquifers many Palestinian rely on for drinking water.

On Sunday, WHO expressed concern over a humanitarian health crisis in the Gaza Strip.

"The accumulation of shortages in basic supplies in Gaza is leading to rapid deterioration in the social determinants of health for the population of 1.7 million Palestinians," WHO said in a statement. "The severe and prolonged shortages of fuel, electricity and medicines along with widespread poverty stem from six years of tight restrictions into and out of Gaza's borders for people and goods."

Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in San Francisco. She has reported from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and across the Middle East. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4A53 A35C 06BE 5339 E9B6 D54E 73A6 0F6A E252 A50F

Contact Sheera Frenkel at

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