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Palestine: Israel wages water war on Palestinians

Palestinians call Israel's manipulation of water supplies to large areas of West Bank “inhumane and outrageous.”


Palestine has decried Israel’s practice of siphoning off water supplies from large areas of the occupied West Bank.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the office of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said that “Israel was waging a water war against the Palestinians.”

“Israel wants to prevent Palestinians from leading a dignified life and uses its control over our water resources to this end; while illegal Israeli settlements enjoy uninterrupted water service, Palestinians are forced to spend great sums of money to buy water that is theirs in the first place,” Hamdallah said in the statement.

Mekorot, the main supplier of water to Palestinian towns and cities, is accused of manipulating water supplies to the municipality of Jenin, several Nablus villages and the city of Salfit and its surrounding villages, leaving tens of thousands of Palestinians without access to safe drinking water during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Jamal Dajani, Director of Strategic Media and Communications at the Prime Minister’s Office, called Mekorot’s practice “inhumane and outrageous.”

“It is not enough for Israel to systematically appropriate Palestinian land and usurp Palestine’s natural resources; they also refuse the Palestinians the right to water.”

On Tuesday, the executive director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group, an NGO focusing on water and sanitation issues, said that "Some areas had not received any water for more than 40 days.

"People are relying on purchasing water from water trucks or finding it from alternative sources such as springs and other filling points in their vicinity," Ayman Rabi said.

"Families are having to live on two, three or 10 litres per capita per day," he added, pointing out that in some areas they had started rationing water.

The city of Jenin, which has a population of more than 40,000 people, said its water supplies had been cut by half, and warned that it would hold Mekorot solely responsible for any tragedies resulting from water shortages during the hot summer months.

Israeli denial

Israel's national water company, Mekorot, denied cutting the water supplies to large parts of the occupied West Bank, saying there was only broad reduction in water supply to the Palestinians.

"As a result of the shortage of water supply in the West Bank ... we have made a broad reduction of the supply to all residents in the area," Mekorot said late on Wednesday.

"All the facilities are working and the capability to supply is less than the rate of consumption. The water authority recently approved a master plan for the water sector and accordingly we will build the systems that will meet the West Bank's required consumption."

Israel's COGAT agency, a main body of the Israeli army that regulates the occupation in the West Bank, also pointed to a burst pipe, which was said to have disrupted supplies to the villages of Marda, Biddya, Jammain, Salfit and Tapuach.

READ MORE: Israel denies cutting water supplies to West Bank

"The water flow has been regulated and is currently up and running," COGAT said.

“The water supply to Hebron and Bethlehem has been expanded in further 5,000 cubic meters per hour in order to meet the needs of the residents,” COGAT said.

According to the UN, 7.5 litres per person per day is the minimum requirement for most people under most conditions but in some areas of Palestine - where temperatures exceed 35C - the minimum requirement is much higher.

Israel has limited the water available to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since its forces occupied the territories in 1967.

Israelis, including settlers, consume five times more water than Palestinians in the West Bank: 350 litres per person per day in Israel compared with 60 litres per Palestinian per day in the West Bank.

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