Failed Plan to Reconstruct Gaza Fuels Water, Sanitation Crisis
- A Palestinian boy drinks water next to a cart loaded with containers filled with water from public taps in the northern Gaza Strip, June 20, 2013. | Photo: Reuters
Published 22 March 2017 (17 hours 46 minutes ago)
Under the plan, Israel continues to tightly control the materials that are being used to build vital infrastructure in Gaza.
The United Nations-backed strategy for the reconstruction of Gaza following the 2014 offensive by Israel has been dubbed a failure by the international charity Oxfam. An investigation released Wednesday revealed that the strategy “is failing to meet the needs of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza” and instead is worsening Gaza’s already dire water and sanitation crisis.
World Water Day
The Oxfam report, titled “Treading Water” and released on World Water Day, analyzed the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism or GRM, which was designed to help with urgent reconstruction of areas devastated by the 2014 war by allowing the entry of building materials into the strip.
Under the GRM, almost 3,000 items needed to build infrastructure for water and sanitation in Gaza are still awaiting approval. Only 16 percent of items that have been submitted for GRM approval for water and sanitation projects have made it past the Israeli-imposed blockade.
As part of the GRM, Israeli authorities can reject or delay projects and specific items entering Gaza based on their claimed security concerns. Around 70 percent of materials needed to build water and sanitation infrastructure are estimated to be classed as “dual-use” items. Most of these essential “dual-use” items wait between 61 to 100 days before their approval is decided.
Oxfam Country Director Chris Eijkemans said that for Palestinians living in the territory under tight Israeli control, just 4 percent of freshwater is safe to drink amid a “staggering escalation of the water crisis.”
“The UN-brokered system is unaccountable, fundamentally flawed and gives the appearance of legitimizing Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza,” Oxfam wrote in a press release. “The system is ultimately failing to meet immense needs, address Gaza’s de-development and enable construction of vital water infrastructure.”
The Oxfam report said that while Gaza has a system of piped domestic water, it is subject to breakage and leakage and is not fit for drinking. Instead, many rely on water for drinking and cooking that that is bought from water trucks. Some 40,000 people were estimated to lack access to municipal water networks and 95 percent of Palestinians in Gaza rely on desalinated sea water.
Overall, the GRM has failed to overcome the harsh restrictions of Israel’s blockade on the occupied Palestinian territories, undermining Palestinians’ human rights to water.
“What was an imperfect, supposedly temporary measure has become entrenched within the bureaucracy of the 10-year blockade, funded and backed by the international community and providing an appearance of legitimacy to Israel’s ongoing control over the Gaza Stip,” said Oxfam’s Eijkemans.
The investigation on the water crisis comes after the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia released a damning report on Israel’s “apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” The U.N. pulled the report amid Israeli outrage, while the Jordanian chief of the body, Rima Khalef, resigned in protest.
In 2012, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency warned that Gaza could become unliveable by 2020 if urgent action was not taken to keep pace with local needs and prevent “irreversible” damage to aquifers.
by teleSUR / mm-HG
Palestinian Rights Committee Hears Call for Israel to Be Held to Account for Violations against Children during Gaza Conflict
The top Palestinian diplomat at the United Nations this afternoon called on the Organization to include Israel’s army among the parties that committed grave violations against children during armed conflict, and to hold it accountable for attacks last year on United Nations-run schools sheltering civilians in Gaza.
“We appeal to all those involved including [Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict] Leila Zerrougui to include Israel on the list and to not cave to pressure to exclude Israel,” Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, told a meeting of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. He also appealed to the Committee’s Chairman to speak to the Secretary-General’s senior aides on the matter.
Mr. Mansour was referring to the Secretary-General’s next annual report on children and armed conflict, due in June, which would include an annex listing parties that recruit or use children, kill or maim children, commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children or engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals in situations of armed conflict on the Council’s agenda.
Israel, Mr. Mansour said, qualified to be on the list as deliberate attacks on more than 270 schools and 75 health centres in Gaza last July and August had left at least 540 Palestinian children dead and 3,000 injured. Adding that more than 400,000 Palestinian children still suffered from the traumatic effects of the war, he called it a clear example of the occupying Power’s collective punishment against Gaza’s 1.8 million residents — of which half were children.
“Those are human beings; they deserve justice and therefore accountability should be addressed by the Secretary-General, the Security Council and all those that respect the lives of human beings,” Mr. Mansour said. Many of those killed were civilians sheltering in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
“The United Nations has to make sure that when they raise the flag over their facilities, then people should be granted protection,” he said. He thanked Jordan’s Permanent Representative for facilitating talks on the matter during her country’s term as Council President in April and said he would continue to work with her on the matter.
Mr. Mansour also expressed frustration over the slow pace of international aid for Gaza’s reconstruction. He said that, during the Council’s 21 April debate on the Palestinian question and other Middle East issues, the situation in Gaza was scrutinized extensively. Frank statements were made on the challenges on the ground in Gaza, and the need for Israel to lift its blockade on the enclave and permit the entry of promised funds for rebuilding, which remained in “the realm of promises not in the realm of implementation”.
Similarly, on the West Bank, Mr. Mansour said: “We do not see significant or noticeable improvement in East Jerusalem, or the so-called Area C or of the miserable situation in the Gaza Strip.”
He also voiced dismay over the Council’s failure to adopt a resolution setting a timeframe to end the occupation and create a Palestinian State within pre-1967 borders. Such a text must also set the basis for a political settlement and just resolution for Palestinian refugees, as well as create a new mechanism for “serious negotiations between us and the Israelis” involving all relevant Arab countries that could influence the talks in a positive way, he said.
If “one superpower holding a veto” in the Council failed to accept such a text, then he proposed the holding of an international conference to implement the Arab Peace Initiative, he said, stressing that “this one country is holding things close to their chest, saying they are reassessing and re-evaluating, but they are not telling us much more”.
Nevertheless, he welcomed the French Foreign Minister’s announcement that his delegation would take the lead and New Zealand’s role in that regard.
The Director of the UNRWA New York Office, Richard Wright, also took the floor, noting that today marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of the commencement of its operations.
Since its inception, UNRWA had made huge efforts to build the human capital of Palestine refugee population, he said. But, huge challenges remained, notably the growing gap between needed and available resources, particularly for confronting emergencies in Syria and Gaza. On 2 June, he announced, the Agency would hold a high-level conference entitled “UNRWA@65”.
“The tone we wish to convey is that, if UNRWA is to continue to act as a stabilizing factor, then it has to be backed and supported to continue the work it has done over the last 65 years until a just and lasting solution is found to the Palestine refugee issue in accordance with United Nations resolutions,” Mr. Wright said. He expressed hope for a simple and short outcome document of agreed conclusions.
The conference would feature a morning plenary session and two panel afternoon discussions, including one on protection challenges for vulnerable groups, such as children, people with disabilities, youth and women, and another on Palestine refugees in armed conflict. Six Palestinian refugees from Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria would participate.
Also addressing the Conference would be the Secretary-General and General Assembly President, Jordan’s Foreign Minister, European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Assistance, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and Turkey’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, among other senior officials, Mr. Wright said. The top three UNRWA donors — the United States, Saudi Arabia and the European Union — and key hosts Jordan and Palestine had been invited to speak, as had all United Nations Member States and Observers, as well as non-governmental organizations.
Briefing on recent developments, Fodé Seck (Senegal) Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that 1 April was a historic day, as the State of Palestine had become a State party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The same day, Nikolay Mladenov replaced Robert Serry as the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority.
A subsidiary body of the General Assembly, the Committee is mandated to support Palestinian rights, the peace process towards a two-State solution based on pre-1967 borders and a just resolution of all final status issues. Established in 1975, it also mobilizes aid for Palestinians.
Mr. Seck said he delivered a statement during the Council’s 21 April open debate, as well as during the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, held in Vienna from 31 March to 1 April.
Wilfried Emvula (Namibia), Committee Vice-Chair, provided a summary of the Vienna seminar, saying its theme of “speeding up relief, recovery and reconstruction in post-war Gaza” was timely, given the slow pace of reconstruction and the mounting frustration of the Gaza population. The structural problems of the blockade, Gaza’s housing and environmental crisis and its energy and water deficit, which were threatening the very viability of the enclave, were also discussed.
The seminar generated considerable interest, he said, with officials of 49 Governments, the European Union, League of Arab States, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), 12 United Nations agencies and 27 non-governmental organizations in attendance.
The Committee also approved the provisional programme for the United Nations Round Table on the Legal Aspects of the Question of Palestine, scheduled for 20 to 22 May in The Hague. The event, to be held in a closed, invitation-only format, would aim to explore legal ways and means to support achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, as well as efforts to build the State of Palestine’s capacity in the context of its recent accession to the International Criminal Court.
The Committee, in addition, welcomed the arrival of the new Permanent Representatives of Pakistan, Malaysia and Sri Lanka to the United Nations. Noting that Sri Lanka headed the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, and that Malaysia was a member, Mr. Mansour said the new ambassadors would be an important addition to the Committee’s work and the search for justice for the Palestinian people.
Also today, the Committee, on the recommendation of its Working Group, approved the applications of three non-governmental organizations seeking accreditation for participation in its activities: Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center of Ramallah; the Youth Vision Society of Gaza; and UFree Network of Norway, as an observer.
Forty-nine Facts about Israel’s Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip
This week marked the 49th anniversary of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. So here are 49 facts about a military regime that has lasted almost half a century.
- The West Bank – including East Jerusalem – and the Gaza Strip together constitute the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), which have been under Israeli military occupation since June 1967.
- Prior to Israeli occupation, the West Bank was controlled by Jordan, and the Gaza Strip by Egypt.
- Before the State of Israel was established in 1948, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were simply parts of Mandate Palestine; their ‘borders’ are the result of Israeli expansion and armistice lines.
- 300,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip became refugees during Israel’s conquest in June 1967; the vast majority were unable to return.
- In 1967, Israeli forces ethnically cleansed and destroyed a number of Palestinian villages in the OPT,including Imwas, Beit Nuba, and others.
- By an odd coincidence of history, Israel’s military occupation of the OPT began not long after the military regime over Palestinian citizens of Israel had formally ended in December 1966.
- Therefore, the State of Israel has subjected Palestinians citizens and Palestinian non-citizens to military rule for all but six months of its 68-year existence.
- One of the first acts of Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem was to demolish the Mughrabi Quarter, expelling 600 residents and destroying 135 homes.
- In place of the 800-year old Mughrabi Quarter, Israel created the Western Wall Plaza.
- The first West Bank settlement was established in September 1967, supported by the then Labor-led government.
- All Israeli settlements in the OPT are illegal under international law, constituting a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
- In a secret memo in 1967, a legal adviser to the Israeli government affirmed the illegality of civilian settlements in the OPT.
- By 1972, there were some 10,000 Israelis living in illegal settlements in the OPT.
- In 1974/75, Israel established Ma’ale Adumim, located in the West Bank to the east of Jerusalem. It is now the largest Israeli settlement in terms of area.
- There are now 125 government-sanctioned settlements in the OPT, plus another 100 or so unauthorised settler ‘outposts’.
- There are around 400,000 Israelis living in illegal settlements the Occupied West Bank.
- This excludes residents of colonies established in East Jerusalem – a further 200,000.
- Israelis have voted in 14 national elections since June 1967. Unlike settlers, Palestinians in the OPT have been unable to vote in any of those 14 elections.
- According to the UN, there have been 2,598 acts of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the last ten years.
- One of the methods adopted by Israeli authorities over the decades to colonise West Bank land has been Ottoman-era land legislation dating back to 1858.
- By the mid-1980s, Palestinian cultivated land in the West Bank had dropped by 40 percent.
- In 1991, Israel began requiring a Palestinian seeking to enter Israel from the OPT to obtain an individual permit.
- More than 500 physical obstacles, including checkpoints and earth mounds, restrict Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank.
- In 2003, Israel began work on the Separation Wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Around 85 percent of the total length of the Wall’s projected route lies inside the OPT.
- In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague issued an advisory opinion that the construction of the Wall in the OPT is “contrary to international law”.
- Some 82,000 settlers live outside the Separation Wall; add Ariel, a major settlement-city in the middle of the northern West Bank, and the total is around 100,000 settlers.
- The Gaza Strip is home to around 1.8 million Palestinians, some 70 percent of whom are United Nations (UN)-registered refugees, expelled from their homes by Israel in 1948.
- For decades, Israel maintained a permanent armed presence in Gaza, expropriated land, and built colonies for a settler population that rose to more than 8,000.
- In 2005, Israel removed these settlers, and redeployed its forces to Gaza’s perimeter fence.
- The Gaza Strip is still under Israeli occupation: along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it forms part of a single territorial entity (OPT).
- This was affirmed in UN Security Council Resolution 1860 in 2009, and also affirmed in November 2014 by the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
- In 1967, Israel expanded Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries to include newly-occupied territory; this act of annexation has never been recognised by the international community.
- A third of the annexed territory was expropriated; by 2001, some 47,000 settlement housing units had been built on this expropriated land.
- The vast majority of Palestinians in Jerusalem are permanent residents, not citizens. In 2014, the residency status of 107 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem was revoked.
- Palestinians suffer from a discriminatory water policy maintained by Israeli authorities.
- Israel enforces a dual legal system in the OPT: civil courts for the 600,000 settlers, and military courts for 4.5 million Palestinians. The latter has a 99.74 percent conviction rate.
- The Israeli military detains Palestinians from the OPT without charge or trial, for renewable six-month periods. There are currently 715 such prisoners, from a total of 7,000 jailed Palestinians.Saker Jaabis sits in rubble of his home in Jabel Mukaber in Jerusalem, demolished by Israeli authorities
- Since 1967, Israeli authorities have demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes as an act of collective punishment.
- Many Palestinian structures are demolished by Israeli forces for lacking the right permit; yet more than 95 percent of Palestinian permit applications are rejected.
- In 2016 to date (June 6), Israeli military authorities have demolished 625 Palestinian structures.
- During the First Intifada (1987–93), Israeli forces killed over 1,000 Palestinians, one in five of them children.
- In the first few days of the Second Intifada, the Israeli army fired 1.3 million bullets.
- In six military offensives from 2006-2014, Israel killed 1,097 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip.
- Israeli occupation forces killed 137 Palestinians in the West Bank in 2015, and 56 in 2014. Over the same two-year period, Israeli forces also injured 19,950 Palestinians in the West Bank.
- The Oslo Accords, signed in the mid-1990s, saw the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs some aspects of life for Palestinians, in some of the OPT.
- The Accords divided up the OPT into Areas A, B, and C. The territory of Areas A and B is not contiguous, and consists of 227 separate areas under varying degrees of PA control.
- Some 60 percent of the West Bank remains under full Israeli military and civil control. However, even in the rest of the West Bank, the Israeli military conducts raids at will.
- According to Human Rights Watch: “Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin.” Amnesty International agrees.
- In 2012, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said Israeli policies in the OPT violate the prohibition of “racial segregation and apartheid.”