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Gaza and the right to water

Saed al-Din Atbash, the head of water facilities at Gaza Municipality, has appealed to the international community to urge Israel stop targeting water and sewerage facilities in Gaza. He says that all occupied civilians have a legal and human right to clean water and sanitation.

We agree.

Photo: 'A displaced Palestinian child collects water, at the Abu Hussein U.N. school, in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip.' Source: Associated Press/ Press Association Images
Photo: ‘A displaced Palestinian child collects water, at the Abu Hussein U.N. school, in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip.’ Source: Associated Press/ Press Association Images

In an IPS article about water as a weapon in war, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon comments, “Preventing people’s access to safe water is a denial of a fundamental human right [and the] deliberate targeting of civilians and depriving them of essential supplies is a clear breach of international humanitarian and human rights law.”

And yet it appears that the Israeli assault on Gaza is violating the human right to water and sanitation.

– On July 13, Middle Eye reported, “Palestinian officials on [July 12] claimed that the Israelis had targeted water wells in different parts of Gaza City, leaving thousands of families without access to clean drinking water. …The sewerage system is also a target, with Israeli warplanes targeting sewage treatment stations in West Gaza City early on [July 12].”

– On July 18, Amnesty International stated, “Israeli air strikes and shelling have caused devastating damage to water and sanitation infrastructure across the Gaza Strip. Three workers have been killed trying to make critical repairs and continuing hostilities have made such work too dangerous in many areas.”

– On July 23, CBC News Middle East correspondent Derek Stoffel tweeted, “Residents of al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza say an Israeli strike took out a water pipe more than a week ago, meaning no running water.”

– On July 27, Haaretz reported, “In addition to the damage of the central pipeline and the reservoirs — which affects cities and villages throughout Gaza — home pipes and water containers on roofs have been damaged by the bombardments.”

The consequences are apparent.

– On July 27, Al Jazeera reported, “Access to water is extremely difficult [in Gaza]; a man who generally sells water tanks for $4 is now asking for $29.”

– On July 29, the Wall Street Journal reported, “The U.N. Relief and Works Agency is distributing bottled water to more than 200,000 Gazans displaced by the fighting, and Mercy Corps is trying to rent water delivery trucks to assist.”

– Also on July 29, the Dallas Morning News reported, “Israel’s aerial assaults on targets in Gaza broadened [today], including what Palestinians said was a devastating hit on the only electricity plant, leaving the enclave of 1.7 million people with no power, running water or sewage treatment.”

– Today, NPR reports, “City pipes deliver some water [to the UN schools]. But with thousands of people taking refuge at schools, much more has to be trucked in. Still, there is sometimes not enough, says Merit Hietanen, a U.N. employee managing water deliveries to the schools.”

– Also today, Press TV reports, “According to physicians with the Palestine Red Cross Society (PRCS), doctors do not have access to water or electricity power.”

The Blue Planet Project supports the call by Saed al-Din Atbash for Israel to stop the bombing of water and sewerage infrastructure in Gaza. We echo the words of the UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights to water and sanitation Catarina De Albuquerque who has said during this assault, “[The] right to water and sanitation must be secured in Gaza.” And we join with the United Nations and countless others in calling for an enduring ceasefire and a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.

As of this hour, more than 1,400 Palestinians have been killed (of which approximately 1,120 were civilians, including more than 315 children), and 59 Israelis have been killed (3 civilians and 56 soldiers).