On the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organized the conference on Gaza and the Right to Water. More than 170 persons attended the conference, representing UN agencies, civil society organizations, specialists, INGOs, and the media.
Al Mezan's director, Mr. Issam Younis, and OHCHR's Gaza Office director, Curtis Goering, opened the conference and welcomed the attendees. According to Issam Younis, the purpose of the conference was to discuss critically the current humanitarian situation in Gaza and its effects on the right to water and the right to sanitation, both of which have a direct bearing on human life and the quality of that life.
Since 1967, the Israel has violated the right to water in the Gaza Strip. In addition to serious negligence in the development of water facilities, it has often directly attacked those that do exist and that are essential for the provision of water to the population, a grave violation to international humanitarian law (IHL). Indeed, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) administered both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in a way that ensured minimal access to water by Palestinians, while allowing excessive access to water by Israeli settlers. Years of excessive use of water from the Gaza aquifer depleted its supply to such an extent that there is no longer a sufficient amount of water for Gaza's population. This has made upgrading the water facilities and finding new solutions to the water shortages essential and yet Palestinian plans to improve these facilities, funded and supported by international donors, have been prohibited owing to Israel's refusal to allow the proper equipment and materials into Gaza. This is a deliberate policy manifested by the illegal Israeli siege of Gaza. It reveals, among other things, Israel's profound disregard for its obligations under international law.