Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent a letter to senior Israeli government, military and water officials demanding that they cease cutting the water supply to Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank.
â€śIn violation of int’l treaties, Israel has cut water supply up to 70%, leaving homes with no running water and causing factory shutdowns, severe damage to agriculture, deaths of livestock,â€ť said the center.
According to media reports and calls to Adalah, from West Bank residents, Mekorot, the Israeli water company, has significantly reduced the amount of water it is supplying to West Bank Palestinians, since early June 2016. These water cutbacks are expected to continue throughout the summer.
According to reports, WAFA informs, the Israeli state notified the Palestinian water authority that, starting in June, the supply of water piped to the West Bank would be cut from previous levels by some 50 to 70 percent.
This cutback has intensified an already existing water shortage faced by Palestinian residents across the West Bank that results from Israeli control over fresh water sources.
In her letter to Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major General Yoav Mordechai, and Mekorot national water company CEO Shimon Ben Hamo, Adalah lawyer Muna Haddad detailed the serious repercussions of water cutbacks to West Bank residents.
“The reduction in water amounts and pressure prevents the filling of holding reservoirs in the Palestinian communities. As a result, in some of the communities, including the villages of Salfit, Azmut, Salem and Dir Al-Hatab in the northern West Bank, water flow to residential homes has been almost completely cut for more than two weeks.
â€śThe cuts have also caused factory shutdowns, damage to gardens and agricultural lands, and the deaths of livestock due to dehydration. The situation, exacerbated by a period of heavy heat over the past several weeks and that is expected to continue through the summer months, is causing significant harm to West Bank residents,” Attorney Haddad wrote.
Adalah’s letter, sent on 23 June 2016, Â also highlighted the dramatic difference in access/supply of water to Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Israeli Jewish settlers.
“Even before this decision, [to cut the water supply to the West Bank] which does not apply to Israeli Jewish settlements, the water access gap between Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers in the West Bank was enormous.â€ť
The center noted that, â€śPalestinian residents, for example, are provided with an average of 70 liters of water a day while the minimal average daily water consumption recommended by the World Health Organization set at 100 liters. Israeli Jewish settlers in the West Bank, on the other hand, have access to more than 300 liters per person per day.”
In the letter, Adalah also noted that the cuts in water supply to Palestinian residents of the West Bank violate international conventions ratified by Israel including: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which determines the right to an adequate standard of living, and specifically details the right to food and the basic needs of human existence â€“ including the right to water; Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child likewise determines that signatory states are obligated to provide clean drinking water; Articles 47 of the Hague Convention and 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention forbid pillaging which, in this case, would apply to Israel’s practice of transferring West Bank water resources from Palestinian residents to Israeli Jewish settlers.
â€śGiven these severe violations of basic human rights guaranteed by international law, Adalah demands that COGAT, the Infrastructure Minister, and Mekorot immediately halt cuts in the water supply to Palestinian residents of the West Bank.â€ť
Chris Carlson is a student of religion at Mount Mercy University, United States, and has been a regular volunteer with the IMEMC since 2013. He assisted in providing extensive coverage of the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip, and continues into the present day, with the issues at hand. He can be reached via email at c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g.