Aid agencies call for halt to recurring demolitions of water cisterns in Area C

Action Against Hunger (ACF); ActionAid; American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); Asamblea de Cooperación por la Paz (ACPP); CARE; Comitato Internazionale Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP); Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT); EWASH; HelpAge International; Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz (HEKS); Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH); World Vision Jerusalem-West Bank-Gaza

Aid agencies are calling for an immediate end to demolitions of water cisterns belonging to Palestinian communities in the West Bank, which have been on steady increase in the past year. The recurring demolitions present a clear breach of International Humanitarian Law and undermine the sustainability of the communities that depend on them for survival.

The year 2012 ends with a somber record – just in its first 10 months, Israeli armed forces have destroyed 36 rainwater cisterns used by the Palestinian communities in the Area C of the West Bank, affecting over 1600 people, an increase from 34 cisterns destroyed in 2011. The communities whose cisterns were destroyed live unconnected to the water network and are forced to rely on rain harvesting and/or water purchases from vendors. Most of the communities that have been subject to demolition of cisterns reside in the vicinity of Israeli settlements and unauthorized outposts that enjoy a regular water supply.

Aid agencies are dismayed by what appears to be a continuous targeted destruction and consciously slanted distribution of one of the most scarce and most vital natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territory. As an object “essential for the survival of the population”, according to International Humanitarian Law, water cisterns have special protection and hence should never be destroyed based on administrative reasons.

The destruction of essential water infrastructure in Area C is in clear violation of International Humanitarian Law and Israel’s obligations as an Occupying Power, and is undermining the very existence of Palestinian communities in this region.

Many among the destroyed cisterns have in the past years been rehabilitated with European Union (EU) and other donors’ funds, in projects implemented by various members of AIDA (the Association of International Development Organizations) - testifying to the international community’s understanding of the vital importance of these infrastructures for the survival of Palestinian communities in Area C. AIDA offers its unconditional support to all its members doing this vital work and calls upon the international community to ensure that demolitions of water cisterns are halted immediately, and to take concrete steps to ensure aid agencies can continue to assist vulnerable Palestinians unhindered and without interference.

Please find attached the basic factsheet on destructions of water structures in the Area C.

For further factual clarification or media enquiries, please contact EWASH: Alex Abu Ata (alex@ewash.org), Jawwal +972 59 5878719 or Orange +972 54 3079627.

To schedule a fieldtrip to affected communities, please contact Polish Humanitarian Action: Marta Kaszubska: (marta.kaszubska@pah.org.pl), Orange +972 54 3198667 or Jawwal +972 59 8521266