Tens of thousands of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have been without running water for more than a month, victims of a decrepit and overwhelmed infrastructure and caught in a legal no-man’s land caused by the divisions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.The residents of the Shufat refugee camp are technically part of the Jerusalem municipality, the Palestinain News Network (PNN) reports. But, they live outside the massive West Bank separation barrier that Israel has built. So, Israeli services are sparse, yet, Palestinian authorities are barred from operating there or developing the water system.
The local Israeli water authority says that the existing system of pipes cannot handle the rapid population growth of the area, and it is scrambling to solve the problem. Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court gave officials 60 days to find a solution.
But, with the scorching summer season approaching, residents are growing increasingly desperate. Basic daily tasks, like brushing one’s teeth, have become a challenge — showers, a luxury. Families often send their clothes to relatives, elsewhere in the city, to wash them.
‘Sixty days — that’s a lot of time for us,’ said Hani Taha, a local butcher. ‘There will be chaos here.’
Israel captured (then-mainly Palestinian) East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East conflict. After the war, it redrew Jerusalem’s municipal boundary, expanding it into the West Bank, to encompass what were then small Palestinian communities, and annexing the lands which were made part of the city.
The annexation was never internationally recognized. Israel considers all of East Jerusalem, including Shufat, to be part of its capital, building a ring of Jewish districts in the city. Some 200,000 Israeli Jews and 300,000 Palestinians now live in occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians demand as the capital of a future nation.
Palestinians have long complained that the city neglects roads, schools and public services in the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. The situation has worsened for areas like Shufat, since Israel built its annexation wall in the last decade.
The barrier, which Israel says is needed to keep attackers from entering the city, has cut some neighborhoods in half, leaving thousands of people on the outside. Anyone entering or exiting Shufat, for instance, must pass through an Israeli military checkpoint.
Residents say that they first began to feel the water crunch last month, when the water cut out on March 4. Since then, service has been scarce and often non-existent. Residents buy bottles or large jerrycans of water to get by.
A lack of hydraulic pressure from the month-long shortage has forced desperate residents to lower rooftop tanks to ground level, and fill them by hand.
On one block, three large black tanks sat stagnant in a pile of rotting trash and empty plastic bottles. Six pumps and a snarl of tubing had been rigged to force water upward.
Faucets in the adjacent building were running dry. Young men could be seen lugging large plastic containers up flights of stairs, into a home. A young girl held a bag of water bottles for her family.
‘When my kids want to go to school, there’s no water to wash themselves. My husband goes to work and it’s the same thing,’ said Umm Osama al-Najar, pointing at a pile of dirty dishes in her kitchen sink.
‘Sometimes I go into the bathroom and I am disgusted, especially when so many people use the bathroom and there is no water to flush. It’s very important that we get the water back here. It’s breaking my heart.’
Original article by the Associated Press (AP).