News Release

Israel Bombs Power Plant; Water Going from “Undrinkable” to “Catastrophic”

NBC News reports: “The fuel tanks at Gaza’s only power plant came under attack early Tuesday, threatening to deepen an already dire humanitarian situation. The attack came hours after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in a televised speech of a ‘prolonged’ campaign in Gaza against Hamas. Israel carried out 76 strikes overnight — one of the biggest bombardments in the nearly month-long campaign. …

“Jamal Dersawi, the plant’s general manager, told NBC News that the major fuel storage tanks supplying the facility took a hit before dawn. There was no immediate comment from Israel’s military about the attack. …

“Dersawi said that since the facility provides power to key infrastructure, including water sanitation facilities, Tuesday’s attack will have a devastating impact on the citizens of Gaza.”

The Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH), a coalition of 27 organisations working in the water and sanitation sector in the occupied Palestinian territories, recently released a statement: “Since the start of the Israeli assault on Gaza on July 8, 2014, the water and wastewater infrastructure in Gaza has been heavily affected by Israeli airstrikes. Main water supply and wastewater infrastructure has been hit and as a result the water supply or sewage services to 1.2 million (2/3 of the total population in Gaza) have been cut or severely disrupted. The targeting of civilian objects under situation of hostilities is prohibited according to International Humanitarian Law and is considered a war crime. …

“Prior to the current escalation, Gaza already suffered from a water crisis, with limited availability of water resources, fuel and the Israeli imposed blockade since 2007. The only water resource for Gaza is the coastal aquifer, which according to the UN may become unusable by 2016 due to over-abstraction.” See: Guardian report from 2013: “Gaza becoming uninhabitable as blockade tightens, says UN,” which states: “Destruction of smuggling tunnels and renewed ban on import of construction materials have exacerbated humanitarian crisis.”

MONTHER SHOBLAK, monthercmwu at hotmail.com
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Shoblak is director general of Coastal Municipalities Water Utility in Gaza. He stresses the importance of the water situation in Gaza and links it to water-borne diseases. One of their workers, Zeyad Al Shawi, was recently “killed by the Israeli forces while he was opening water to the people of Rafah.”

MARK ZEITOUN, M.Zeitoun at uea.ac.uk
Zeitoun is author of Power and Water in the Middle East: The Hidden Politics of the Palestinian-Israeli Water Conflict. He has been profiled in The New York Times.

He said today: “The quality of water in Gaza is undrinkable at the best of times, and so people generally rely on neighborhood water desalination plants provided by local entrepreneurs, and a mix of poor quality water blended with better quality provided by the water authorities (PWA [Palestinian Water Authority] and CMWU). All the sources depend on electricity or diesel to run the pumps.

“The targeting of power facilities and power lines and restrictions on fuel imports (before and after this latest assault) now combine with the inability for water authorities or entrepreneurs to operate, maintain or repair their water systems. Repair crews are generally prohibited from their work because of the threat of attacks, though risk their lives nonetheless. Last time I checked several days ago, four water technicians had been killed while trying to deliver safe water to the residents.

“Hospitals in particular need lots of good quality water, to operate effectively. The shortages in good water quality are guaranteed to reduce the capacity of the medical staff to respond to emergencies, as sterilization becomes out of reach. Increases in post-operation infection rates and the risk of water-borne diseases, threaten the wounded, elderly, and infants the most. (See letter from doctors and scientists to the medical journal The Lancet.)

DANNY MULLER, fugedaboutit at gmail.com, @MECAForPeace
Muller focuses on coordinating emergency aid in the Middle East and Haiti. He was most recently in Gaza after Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and immediately before and after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. He will be returning in the coming weeks to advance psychosocial support for traumatized Palestinian children and report on the status of over 50 water treatment units the Middle East Children’s Alliance has installed at UNRWA schools in Gaza.

He said today: “Today, 90 percent of people in Gaza do not have access to water that is safe to drink. We are talking about hundreds and hundreds of thousands of children. Gaza is at the precipice of a public health crisis where the rapid spread of water borne disease and illness will wreak further havoc on a population trying to survive under indiscriminate bombardment by the Israeli Defense Forces. Israeli airstrikes have intentionally targeted water wells, water pipelines and sewage stations. This has only exacerbated the severe water crisis that already existed in Gaza due to the Israeli blockade. Put simply: bombing civilian infrastructure that delivers and purifies water is murder.”

See, by Mohammed Omer: “Israeli jets destroying Gaza water and sewerage systems: officials.”

From NBC News: “Water ‘Catastrophe’ Looms in Gaza as Israel Steps Up Airstrikes.”

From the International Solidarity Movement: “Israel airstrike bombs major water line, sewage station and water wells in Gaza.”

See from ElectronicIntifada.net in 2013: “90 percent of Gaza’s water unfit for drinking, says Falk“: “Richard Falk, a UN special rapporteur on Palestine, has used a new report on corporate complicity with the Israeli occupation to sound the alarm over how Israel is blocking Palestinians from access to their rightful share of water resources. Falk says Israel must halt the demolition of water collection facilities on the pretext that they operate without valid permits. …

“Falk strongly condemns the targeting of water and sanitation facilities during Israeli military operations. Israel has destroyed at least 306 wells in Gaza since 2005. The repeated destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure has contributed to water scarcity in Gaza.

“Israel also blocks Gaza’s inhabitants from using water from Wadi Gaza, a natural stream that originates in the Hebron mountains and flows to the Mediterranean Sea.

“Israel denies Palestinians in the West Bank their rightful share of water from an underground mountain aquifer, according to Falk. It also prevents Palestinians from accessing water from the Jordan River. Under customary international law both water resources must be shared equitably. However, an estimated 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) enjoy approximately six times the amount of water used by the 2.6 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.”