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The water war in Gaza

This morning 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.” 

And Reuters now reports, “More than 1.2 million of the 1.8 million people in the enclave have no water or only limited access to water as power networks have been damaged or lack fuel for generators, [Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] said. ‘In addition, we do have reports of sewage flooding which is a threat to public health’, Laerke said.”

Last week, United Nations Special Rapporteur for the human rights to water and sanitation Catarina De Albuquerque tweeted, “Right to #water and #sanitation must be secured in Gaza #humanrights” Her tweet included a link to an Oxfam media release that highlighted, “Gaza is home to 1.7 million people, and the blockade has left its economy crippled, people unable to move freely, and people struggling to access basic services such as safe water, healthcare and sanitation.” Her tweet also included a link to an Al Jazeera article that reported, “The 10-day Israeli assault on Gaza has had a heavy toll on the strip’s already fragile water infrastructure, leaving the territory’s 1.8 million residents facing an imminent water crisis.”

Middle East Eye has 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]. 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.”

On July 18 an Amnesty International media release confirmed, “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 16 July, the UN reported that at least half of Gaza’s population – some 900,000 people – were not receiving water. Damage to sewage and pumping facilities and the resulting potential for contamination of water supplies has created a public health emergency.”

The Inter Press Service has reported that water and sanitation networks, underground piping, reservoirs, waste water wells and a water storage facility were also targeted during Israeli military attacks in November 2012.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commented, “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.”

Recognition of the right to water requires governments to respect, protect, and fulfill the right. Respecting the right requires states to refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the right. It is also a recognized obligation to ensure personal security is not threatened when having to physically access water.

Further reading
Water ‘Catastrophe’ Looms in Gaza as Israel Steps Up Airstrikes – NBC News
Gaza: Water in the line of fire – International Committee of the Red Cross media release
Gaza faces urgent water shortages – Euronews video