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Report accuses Israel of targeting Gaza’s water facilities

on 16 Comments

A little-publicized report released during the final weeks of Israel’s summer offensive on the Gaza Strip last year accuses Israel of targeting water and wastewater infrastructure during the 51-day assault, despite having been provided the coordinates of all water and wastewater facilities.

Entitled Water Sector Damage Assessment Report, the paper by the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) meticulously documents $34 million in damages that have caused a humanitarian and environmental crisis throughout the Gaza Strip.

Yet the damage detailed in the report is likely incomplete as the team is unable to assess damage to pipe systems because most of the damage is underground and covered by massive amounts of rubble.

A Palestinian boy carries bottles of water to his home in Khuza'a. (Photo: Dan Cohen)

A Palestinian boy carries bottles of water to his home in Khuza’a. (Photo: Dan Cohen)

In order to collect the information contained within the report, a team of technicians operated in the field, putting their lives at great risk. Indeed, seven employees were killed while conducting their duties, according to the report.

With virtually all of Gaza’s water unfit for consumption, the destruction of infrastructure greatly exacerbates existing problems resulting from eight years of siege and numerous Israeli offensives. About 97% of the water does not meet the World Health Organization (WHO) standards because of chloride and nitrate, according to Mahmoud Ismail, Director of the Palestinian Water Authority. Overpumping of the aquifers have lowered the water level — in some areas it reaches 15 meters below sea level which allows for seawater intrusion into the groundwater aquifer. The mixing of seawater into Gaza’s coastal aquifer has left the water unfit for drinking, cooking, or agricultural use.

Yet the residents and farmers of the eastern areas of the Gaza Strip may face an even more grim future. Public officials are concerned that heavy metals and uranium from Israel’s bombing campaign may have seeped into the groundwater, contaminating Gaza’s main water source for generations to come. Facings these concerns, officials need to take samples to ensure that the water is not affected by weapons, yet they have been unable to thus far. “We are looking for international consultant to enter Gaza to ensure that there is no negative impact from the last war on water resources,” Ismail explained.

Under the Israeli-Egyptian siege, rebuilding the destroyed infrastructure is an impossible task — many basic necessities including small pipes under twelve inches in diameter are banned under the siege, according to Ismail.

Existing infrastructure is choked off by the siege as well. One main that pipes in water sold by the Israeli company Mekorot has not been resumed for unknown reasons, though a physical inspection was conducted that found no leakage on the Gaza side, according to the report.

Beyond that, measures that Israel enforces make it cost-prohibitive to import materials. Checks and security procedures create added costs which are then passed onto the consumers.

A Palestinian man distributes bottled water to families in Khuza'a. (Photo: Dan Cohen)

A Palestinian man distributes bottled water to families in Khuza’a. (Photo: Dan Cohen)

Due to fuel shortages resulting from the siege, some water is simply inaccessible. The municipality has standby generators to pump each but no fuel to operate them. Beyond that, the pumps are costly and pollute heavily. “If you have water, maybe you don’t have electricity to raise it to the top of the reservoir,” Ismail explained.

The report calls for three stages of intervention. The immediate humanitarian intervention, which would have been implemented immediately after the final ceasefire, called for nearly $31 million for urgent humanitarian needs. These needs include reparation of damaged water and wastewater facilities, fuel to operate them, chlorine for water supply disinfection, and provision of water for displaced populations, as well as other urgent needs. The second stage calls for reconstruction of water and wastewater facilities, which is predicted to cost $32 million. The final stage calls for rehabilitation and expansion of the infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip, which would cost $620 million.

Six months after the publication of the report, little has been done to ease the catastrophic conditions throughout the rubble-covered Gaza Strip. As Israeli warplanes and drones are a near-overhead, another major israeli offensive looms.

Here is the report in full:

Water Sector Damage Assessment 2014 by Dan Cohen

Dan Cohen
About Dan Cohen

Dan Cohen is an independent journalist and filmmaker based in Palestine. He tweets at @dancohen3000.

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16 Responses

  1. just
    January 28, 2015, 11:34 am

    Dan, you really are amazing and so obviously dedicated to justice.

    Israel steals water and land and then poisons the remains. They should be made to pay for ALL of the reconstruction~ now! Egypt is also culpable for a lot of misery, but Israel is #1 in perfecting cruelty and destruction.

    There will be an accounting one day, and soon, Inshallah.

    • ritzl
      January 28, 2015, 12:11 pm

      Seconded, just. This is some really sick shit.

      I tried to drink brackish water here at home for a single day just to get the tiniest inkling of what it was like. Can’t be done.

      No electricity to pump or purify. Nitrates in water (ntm brackish/chloride water) cause birth defects and stunted growth and organ failure. 50% of Gaza residents are under what? 15?

      Bottled water for 1.8M people? What a joke. What a crime.

      What kind of people can do this on such a scale, and why? Because they voted for Hamas? Because they won’t lay down and die?

      Sidenote: A while back I tried to find some paper or study or other about what the effects of prolonged deprivation are on a large population. I couldn’t find any with a reasonably thorough search (that doesn’t mean there are none). Reasonable people can speculate different reasons why, but my feeling is that studying a captive population’s intentionally imposed/engineered deterioration into sickness and death, for posterity’s sake, is entirely too ghoulish/Mengele-istic to undertake (though I’m sure there are some at the Israeli Ministry of Starvation who would jump at the chance to quantify the effectiveness of government policy choices.*)

      * Sorry for that, but this just makes me physically sick to think about for even a little bit.

      • just
        January 28, 2015, 12:23 pm

        No *apologies* warranted~ not ever, while this continues unabated.

        Thanks, ritzl.

      • seafoid
        January 28, 2015, 12:35 pm

        What a mess. Jewish inhumanity in Gaza and they think nobody knows about it

        “The comic actor Maureen Lipman, known for her role as a proud Jewish mother in a series of British Telecom adverts, has said the sharp rise in antisemitic attacks in Britain may prompt her to leave the country.Speaking to LBC after Holocaust memorial ceremonies took place across the world, she said she has considered moving to the US or Israel because of an increase in the number of attacks on Jews.Lipman said: “When the going gets tough, the Jews get packing … it’s crossed my mind that it’s time to have a look around for another place to live. I’ve thought about going to New York, I’ve thought about going to Israel.””

      • Abierno
        January 28, 2015, 3:44 pm

        And who is selling the bottled water? Which has to be imported, approved by Israel and which can be immediately discontinued on the basis of “security concerns.”

        When is the UN going to move to establishing a protectorate over this besieged land, ending the siege, establishing an airport and seaport and airlifting in massive supplies as we did to Berlin at the end of World War II. If we could do this for German civilians – after a horrendous war which killed hundreds of thousands, we can certainly move forward on behalf of the Gazans, who, after all, are part of the Palestine unity government. Several babies froze to death during the last winter storm, many other bright and laughing children are dying from orphan diseases rarely seen even in third world countries.

        The siege of Gaza in concert with Israeli aircraft targeting water and energy infrastructure, civilian homes, hospitals and schools is an ongoing war crime. The UN should take Israel at their word that Gaza represents a country independent from Israel and establish an immediate protectorate. Many donors stand ready to rebuild Gaza. Israel’s position is not security, it’s humiliation and dehumanization. Gazan lives, particularly, those of children don’t matter. Finally. while Israel generals crow over bombing Gaza back to the stone age, few realize that prehistoric hunter gatherers had freedom of movement and unfettered access to food and water – all of which are denied to Gaza.

      • just
        January 28, 2015, 3:53 pm

        Well said, Abierno. Thanks.

      • Rusty Pipes
        Rusty Pipes
        January 28, 2015, 8:06 pm

        Nothing is more critical for human life than water. Beyond all of Israel’s other crimes against Palestinians, its history with Gaza’s water supply alone should be enough to convict it of the crime of genocide.

  2. amigo
    January 28, 2015, 1:32 pm

    Ireland,s TV Station is reporting ” Hizbollah attack kills 2 Israeli soldiers.Israel responds to this attack.Those poor Israeli soldiers , minding their own business are attacked by those Hizbollah terroreeeests trying to drive the, (sorry–all )Jews into the sea.

    As usual , it is reported in such a manner as to make it look like this attack came in a vacuum.No mention of the attack by Israel 10 days ago.No mention of the IDF being outside it,s borders digging holes in someone else’s sovereign territory.Looks as if it is too sensitive at this time of remembering the Holocaust.

    The report seems as if it was written by the Israeli embassy in Dublin.

    • just
      January 28, 2015, 3:54 pm

      “The report seems as if it was written by the Israeli embassy in Dublin.”

      Could well be.

  3. pabelmont
    January 28, 2015, 3:54 pm

    “heavy metals and uranium from Israel’s bombing campaign may have seeped into the groundwater, contaminating Gaza’s main water source for generations to come”

    If this proves true, what a tragedy. However, in that case, it may be that nearby Israelis will also receive these gifts, because Gaza’s aquifer serves a wider territory than Gaza alone. I had heard (can anyone confirm) that the drawdown of Gaza’s aquifer was a rewsult, in part, of Israeli uses of the water.

  4. oldgeezer
    January 28, 2015, 4:15 pm

    While yonah wants to talk about zionism 140 years ago the current evil being perpetrated by modern zionism is a much more pressing issue. Children freezing to death, water supplies and sanitation systems destroyed, the lives of millions threatened. Profiting every step of the way.

  5. Walid
    January 28, 2015, 10:40 pm

    “Under the Israeli-Egyptian siege, rebuilding the destroyed infrastructure is an impossible task -”

    Dan Cohen called it by its rightful name, ” Israeli-Egyptian siege”.

    • oldgeezer
      January 28, 2015, 11:51 pm

      Israeli-Egyptian siege on a civilian population would have been both more accurate and informative though. That said at least the words used were accurate as far as they went.

      • Walid
        January 29, 2015, 12:09 am

        Oldgeezer, it’s not only Egypt, but the whole gang. The only one that plays fair with the Gazans is Qatar.

  6. JimMichie
    January 29, 2015, 12:40 pm

    What on earth could you possibly expect from these demonic Zionists!

  7. Vera Gottlieb
    Vera Gottlieb
    January 30, 2015, 10:24 am

    Damn those bloody Nazis of the Middle East.

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