Demonstration against water theft in Baqa’a Valley, Hebron

23 August 2010 | ISM Media

Today (23 August 2010) a demonstration was held in the Baqa’a Valley, east of Hebron, against the theft of water from the Palestinian population in the area. About 15 water trucks were parked along Road 60, the road that runs through the valley. The intention was to protest against the fact that the farmers don’t get access to the water reservoirs in Kyriat Arba, the illegal settlement outside Hebron city. The demonstration was also attended by local farmers, standing on the side of the road with the truck drivers. Israeli police and army came to the spot, but did not interfere during the hour-long demonstration.

The water situation in Baqa’a Valley is critical, as the population depends on their farmland to support themselves, and they get a very limited amount of water from the municipality. The settlements in the Hebron district are supported by the Israeli government with the majority of the water resources, originally sourced from Bethlehem, going to settlements. The water is cut off from the Palestinian areas, which receive only a tiny percentage from the Hebron municipality, while most of it is confiscated by the Israeli state and distributed to illegal settlements like Kyriat Arba and Harsina. According to B’Tselem figures from 2008, residents in the Hebron district use on average 56 litres per capita daily – the third lowest amount in the West Bank. In general, Israelis have access to three and a half times more water than Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Baqa’a Valley is the most fertile land in the Hebron district, and the residents are living in constant fear of losing their homes and land, as the area is included in the Israeli state’s plan of dividing the West Bank and expanding and connecting the surrounding settlements. About 35 houses in Baqa’a Valley, in the so-called Area C are now facing eviction orders. In addition the residents frequently face vandalism of crops and water pipes from settlers intent on sabotaging Palestinian residents’ livelihoods. The video below from Tayush shows a recent incident in which settlers attempted to destroy water pipes in the Hebron district.

The water shortage in the Occupied Territories is a major violation of the basic human rights of Palestinians. Israel’s control over and unequal distribution of water resources has been an increasingly harmful policy since 1967 as Palestinian consumption needs have increased with population but not been met due to both neglect of existing infrastructure and failure to construct new water infrastructure, especially in rural areas. There are also numerous restrictions placed on Palestinians right to access water for example by constructing wells. As well as deliberate sabotage by settlers, leakage from pipes due to defective maintenance means that one-third of the amount of the water supplied to the West Bank annually is lost.

Under international law (Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 which prohibits an occupying state from discriminating between residents of occupied territory) Israel’s clear discrimination in terms of quantity and regularity of water to supply to settlements as opposed to Palestinian areas is illegal. During the summer Palestinians’ water supplies are often reduced even further in order to meet increased demand from settlements.