Sunday, February 1, 2009

Israel denies Gaza access to clean water

Israel has refused to allow a French-made water purification system into Gaza amid a drinking water crisis in the Palestinian strip.

The French Foreign Ministry said Friday that Tel Aviv had blocked the entry of a much-needed water purification station into Gaza and had forced its repatriation.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Eric Chevallier said the move has sparked an outcry in the Elysée, prompting it to summon the Israeli ambassador to Paris to explain why the system was denied access.

"There were a very great number of steps taken at all levels to try to get the water purification station into Gaza," he said, adding that Israel's explanation was not satisfactory.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recently warned that Israel's 23-day onslaught on Gaza has pushed its sewage system on the brink of collapse and thus increased risks of groundwater contamination in the Palestinian territory.

"The most dangerous thing is the contamination of drinking water with sewage. We need an international organization like the World Health Organization to investigate the matter," said Monther Shoblak, head of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU).

According to the UN, Israel's three week-long saturation bombing of the Palestinian territory has seriously damaged pipes and has left drinking water in very short supply.

Warning of the serious public health risks, the World Bank has urged the Israeli government to allow enough fuel into Gaza to operate some 170 water and sewage pumps there.

The bank called on Israel to allow maintenance crews to shore up a sewage lake in northern Gaza before it overflows at the expense of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the area.


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