Israel’s water cuts: West Bank ‘in full crisis mode’

Israel stands accused of using ‘water as a weapon’ as some West Bank homes have gone without water for a week.

'There are little excuses left not to give Palestinians back their water rights,' says Corradin [Getty Images]
‘There are little excuses left not to give Palestinians back their water rights,’ says Corradin [Getty Images]

Salfit, occupied West Bank – Salfit sits atop an underground wealth of water, but the city’s residents are forbidden from accessing it – and they are now in crisis, as Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, has reduced water supply to the northern West Bank.

Since the start of the month, residents of Salfit have been receiving between 30 and 40 percent of their normal water allowance, said Saleh Afaneh, the head of the local water and wastewater department.

“On the first day of Ramadan, the water stopped for 24 hours, with no notice,” Afaneh told Al Jazeera. “Since then, it has been coming in at less than half the capacity. We’ve done everything we can to try and make residents comfortable, but this is a crisis.”

“He hasn’t slept in two days,” the city’s mayor, Shaher Eshtieh, cut in. “We’ve never seen anything like this; we are in full crisis mode, working around the clock to help our people, but we are doing this on our own … We’ve continuously reached out to the Palestinian government, the prime minister even, but they’ve been no help, and the Israelis are denying there is a problem.”

A Palestinian Authority spokesperson did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

READ MORE: Israel – Water as a tool to dominate Palestinians

Water shortages and cuts have also been reported throughout the northern Jenin and Nablus districts of the West Bank, although Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit, the Israeli body in charge of the occupied West Bank, denied water had been cut or reduced at all.

In a statement, COGAT said the shortages in the Jenin area were reported due to a broken water pipe that had since been repaired. COGAT also stated that a pipe had burst in Salfit, although local water officials said they had no knowledge of this.

Water is running under our ground while our taps run dry … The people are getting angry. They won’t continue to accept this.

Shaher Eshtieh, Salfit mayor

The Israeli water company Mekorot, meanwhile, said that owing to shortages in the water supply, it had made “a broad reduction of the supply to all residents in the area”, referring to both Israeli settlements and Palestinian areas in the occupied West Bank.

Camilla Corradin, the advocacy task force coordinator for the Emergency, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (EWASH) group, told Al Jazeera that Israel is using “water as a weapon”.

“EWASH believes that Israel has managed to achieve a water surplus, thanks to its advanced water and wastewater technology and its control over Palestinian water resources,” Corradin said.

“There are little excuses left not to give Palestinians back their water rights, so that Palestinian towns and villages will no longer be left without the most basic of rights – water – in hot summer months.”

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