Israel’s Suspension of West Bank Water Supplies ‘Inhumane and Outrageous’

The Palestinian Prime Minister’s office on Thursday slammed Israel’s decision to cut off water supplies for tens of thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank this week as “inhumane and outrageous.”

Rami Hamdallah issued a statement in response to the move by Israel’s national water company Mekorot, which saw water supplies suspended in the municipality of Jenin, several villages in Nablus, as well as the city of Salfit and its surrounding villages.

“Israel wants to prevent Palestinians from leading a dignified life and uses its control over our water resources to this end; while illegal Israeli settlements enjoy uninterrupted water service,” Hamdallah said. “Palestinians are forced to spend great sums of money to buy water that is theirs in the first place.”

Israelis, including settlers, have access to 300 liters of water per day, according to EWASH, while the West Bank average is around 70 liters, below the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum of 100 liters per day for basic sanitation, hygiene and drinking.

Director of Communications at the Prime Minister’s Office Jamal Dajani called Mekorot’s decision “inhumane and outrageous.”

The move to deprive the villages of access to safe drinking water was seen as especially outrageous, as Palestinian Muslims celebrated the holy month of Ramadan, which entered its second week on Tuesday.

Some areas reportedly had not received water for more than 40 days, according Al Jazeera.

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told Ma’an that due to increased rates of water consumption in the summer, water flow “is regulated.”

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Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq estimated in a 2013 report that up to 50 percent of Palestinian water supplies are diverted by Mekorot over the summer months to meet the consumption needs of Israel’s illegal settlements.

COGAT added that a Civil Administration team repaired a burst pipe line on Thursday, which had disrupted the water supply to the villages of Marda and Biddya in Salfit, Salfit city, the Tapuach area in Salfit, as well as the village of Jammain in Nablus. “The water flow has been regulated and is currently up and running,” they added.

COGAT also claimed that water supply had in fact been increased in the evenings to meet the needs of those observing Ramadan, who fast throughout the day.

The spokesperson added that “despite the difficulties,” Israel, through its Joint Water Committee (JWC) works to improve water infrastructure in the occupied West Bank, while Palestinians “don’t cooperate for the improvement of the water flow in the region.”

According to Al-Haq, JWC holds complete decision-making power over the coordinated joint management and development of all water resources in the West Bank.

The establishment of JWC more than two decades ago “should have been a positive reform for Palestinians,” Al-Haq wrote. However, their report notes that the consensus system enables Israel to veto any proposal by Palestinians to maintain existing water infrastructure or build new projects.

Just half of Palestinian proposals for wells and improvement projects to the water network were approved by Israel between 1995 and 2008, compared to a 100 percent approval rate for Israeli projects, a study cited in the report found.

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According to Amnesty international, nearly 200,000 Palestinians in the West Bank do not have access to running water.

“Israel is waging a water war against Palestinians,” Dajani said. “It is not enough for Israel to systematically appropriate Palestinian land and usurp Palestine’s natural resources; they also refuse the Palestinians the right to water.”