Aid agencies condemn Israeli destruction of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure

News and Press Release
Originally published

The Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH), a coalition of 30 leading humanitarian organizations operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, condemns the recent destruction of water infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday 17 July 2011 at approximately 3 am an Israeli airstrike destroyed an agricultural well in the eastern part of Beit Hanoun. Seven civilians including 4 children and 3 women were wounded. The 60-year-old water well belongs to the Az-Za’anin family and served 39 dunams of agricultural land. The strike also caused damage to nine water tanks belonging to five households in the adjacent neighbourhood, serving 59 people.

This is not the first time this year that Israeli airstrikes hit water and sanitation infrastructure. Last March, the Khuza’a municipality warehouse was hit by an airstrike destroying a large quantity of essential water and sanitation materials and spare parts to the value of over US$ 60 000. In April, the Al-Mintar water reservoir in Al-Quba area of Gaza City was hit leaving 30 000 people in eastern Gaza city with no water for three days.

“Israel as the occupying power has to ensure that the Palestinians have access to essential services as required by international law,” said Ghada Snunu, the EWASH Advocacy Task Force Officer in Gaza. “What we keep witnessing is the opposite – civilian infrastructure, in particular water-related facilities, are often hit during Israeli airstrikes depriving people of indispensable services.”

Water and wastewater infrastructure is already under severe strain in Gaza because of the heavy restrictions imposed by Israel on entry of construction materials necessary for repair and maintenance. This has led to vital projects being cancelled or delayed, sometimes for years, compounding further the dire humanitarian conditions for the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Damage to and destruction of water-related infrastructure is not new to the conflict. The regular destruction of such facilities is common in the West Bank’s Area C with 20 rainwater collection cisterns having been demolished by the Israeli authorities so far this year. During Israel’s war on Gaza ‘Operation Cast Lead’ 2008/9, the Israeli military destroyed more than 30 kilometres of water networks – the equivalent of more than double the width of the strip at its widest – and 11 water wells. In 2001, Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials signed a Joint Declaration for Keeping the Water Infrastructure out of the Cycle of Violence at Gaza’s Erez border crossing but Israel has failed to live up to this pledge.

EWASH reiterates its call on Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza and calls on the international community to step up pressure on Israel to ensure protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

For Further information, please contact: Ghada Snunu, EWASH Advocacy Task Force Officer (Gaza Strip) Tel: +972 (0) 598910834 / gsnunu@ewash.org

Note to editors:

The Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Group (EWASH) is a coalition of 30 leading humanitarian organizations. Members include local and international NGOs and UN Agencies. Visit www.ewash.org for more details