Breaking the Thirst
Water Deprivation as a Means of Ethnic Cleansing
In the South Hebron Hills of Palestine, 3500 Palestinians are suffering from the most extreme lack of water. They have no water infrastructure, face high water hauling costs, and must contend with Israeli soldiers and settlers destroying their road access and even poisoning their small wells.
On September 26th, 2009 some 100 activists with support from Israeli, Palestinian and international organizations formed a water convoy to deliver water as a humanitarian and political act.
In the South Hebron Hills, south of road no. 317, about 3,500 Palestinians live at present in various forms of rural localities – villages, hamlets and caves. Their livelihood consists of herding sheep and goats, dry farming and olive groves. Israel eyes this region - hundreds of thousands of dunam – meaning to annex it in the future and create territorial continuity all the way to the ‘green line’ around Arad-En Gedi.
To realize its annexation plans, Israel wants the entire area of the South Hebron Hills ‘clean’ of Palestinians, the legal owners of the land. In order to make life impossible for the residents, the authorities harass the local population in numerous different ways: administrative and court orders, house demolitions, home-cave demolitions, destruction of wells, tracks and harvests, and the declaration of vast areas as ‘firing zones’ forbidden entry. The extremist Jewish settlers of the area also serve as the regime’s long arm, and assault the residents with acts of severe physical violence, uprooting of fruit trees and the destruction of crops.
East of road no. 317, Palestinian localities have no water infrastructure, while the Jewish settlements in the area are regularly and amply supplied through the water pipe grid laid down by ‘Mekorot’ national water company. Settlers engage in intense agriculture such as hothouse plants that consume enormous quantities of water. While some of these settlers nurture private lawns, the neighboring Palestinians’ sheep and goat die of thirst across the fence.
Residents of this area depend on the rainwater that fills water holes during the wet season, and water supplied by tankers costing up to 50 sheikels per one cubic meter. The quantity of water consumed per person here is estimated at 15 liters a day, a far cry from the average water consumption of Palestinians in the West Bank, about 66 liters a day, and in the Jewish settlements and Israel proper – 236 liters a day per person.
According to the latest 2009 World Bank Report, West Bank Palestinians, per person, use 75 cubic meters of water per year; in Gaza, 125. Iraelis use 240.
Palestinians are only able to use 20% of the water resevoir in the West Bank.
Water controlled by Israel in the West Bank is routinely shut off to Palestinian villages and cities in the driest months.
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