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Israel must respect the right to water and stop bombing Gaza’s water infrastructure

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Today is the seventh consecutive day that Israeli warplanes have bombed Gaza. 172 people have been killed, 1230 wounded and thousands more displaced.

Now comes the news that water and sewerage systems in Gaza were deliberately destroyed by Israeli air strikes this past weekend.

Middle East Eye reports, “Palestinian officials on Saturday 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 Saturday. The areas most affected are Shati refugee camp, Tal al-Hawa, Sheikh Ejleen and most Western districts, according to Saed al-Din Atbash, head of water facilities at Gaza Municipality.”

Warplanes have also targeted five water pipelines, each of which provides water to 20,000 people.

Severe fuel shortages also mean that the remaining water pumps and sewage plants could stop functioning.

“The latest attacks are exacerbating an already critical sewerage situation. The New York Times reported last year that 13 sewerage stations in Gaza Strip were either overflowing or were close to overflowing, and 3.5 million cubic feet of raw sewage were finding their way to the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis.”

“[Gaza’s head of water facilities] Atbash appealed to the international community to urge Israel to stop targeting water and sewerage facilities, saying that all occupied civilians have a legal and human right to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.”

This is not the first time that water and sewerage systems have been targeted by the Israeli military. The Inter Press Service reported that water and sanitation networks, underground piping, reservoirs, waste water wells and a water storage facility were targeted during the attacks in November 2012.

In September 2011, Catarina de Albuquerque, the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, stated, “This reality [of 90-95 per cent of Gaza’s water polluted and unfit for human consumption] is a grave threat to the health and dignity of the people living in Gaza and immediate measures are required to ensure full enjoyment of the rights to water and sanitation. Israel must facilitate the entry of necessary materials to rebuild the water and sanitation systems in Gaza, as a matter of priority, otherwise this public health catastrophe will continue unabated.”

Bombing that infrastructure only makes a grave situation even more dire.

Further reading
Israel airstrike hits Water Line
Blue Planet Project report: The Human Right to Water in Palestine
Palestinians denied the right to water
120 dead, 920 wounded after five days of bombing Gaza