Wednesday, 26 June 2013

As Gaza heads for water crisis, desalination seen key

(Reuters) - A tiny wedge of land jammed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean sea, the Gaza Strip is heading inexorably into a water crisis that the United Nations says could make the Palestinian enclave unliveable in just a few years.

With 90-95 percent of the territory's only aquifer contaminated by sewage, chemicals and seawater, neighborhood desalination facilities and their public taps are a lifesaver for some of Gaza's 1.6 million residents.

But these small-scale projects provide water for only about 20 percent of the population, forcing many more residents in the impoverished Gaza Strip to buy bottled water at a premium.

"There is a crisis. There is a serious deficit in the water resources in Gaza and there is a serious deterioration in the water quality," said Rebhi El Sheikh, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA).

The Gaza Strip, governed by the Islamist group Hamas and in a permanent state of tension with Israel, is not the only place in the Middle East facing water woes.

A NASA study of satellite data released this year showed that between 2003 and 2009 the region lost 144 cubic km of stored freshwater - equivalent to the amount of water held in the Dead Sea - making an already bad situation much worse.

But the situation in Gaza is particularly acute, with the United Nations warning that its sole aquifer might be unusable by 2016, with the damage potentially irreversible by 2020. more

Israeli guard 'assaults prisoner on hunger strike'

NABLUS (Ma'an) -- An Israeli guard assaulted a Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike in an Israeli hospital on Monday, a human rights organization said Wednesday.

The guard dragged Abdullah al-Barghouti from his hospital bed to the floor and kicked him in the face, causing bleeding, the Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights said in a statement.

The guard was angry that al-Barghouti closed the door during a bathroom visit despite instructions to leave it open, the group said.

Ahmad al-Betawi, a researcher for the foundation, said the attack was also motivated by al-Barghouti's complaint to Israel's high court over his treatment by prison guards.

Al-Barghouti has been on hunger strike for 56 days. more

Official: Israel to confiscate more land in Nablus

NABLUS (Ma'an) -- The Israeli military plans to confiscate 379 dunums of Palestinian land near Bracha settlement in the northern West Bank, a Palestinian Authority official said Wednesday.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activities, said Israel's military commander in the West Bank Nitsan Alon issued the decision to confiscate the land in Kafr Qalil.

The land belongs to Muhammad Abu Zarur, Samih Sadqa, Bassam al-Shaqa, Abdul Fattah Kashkash, Muhammad Qani, Kathem Abdul Ghani and Jamil Khader and his brothers, Daghlas told Ma'an.

Daghlas said the Israeli military cited security reasons for the confiscation.

An Israeli military spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. more

Israel reopens Gaza crossings: Army

JERUSALEM: The Israeli army on Wednesday reopened the two crossings into the Gaza Strip which were closed as a punitive measure after militants fired five rockets over the border, a statement said.

"Kerem Shalom and Erez were reopened this morning and are operating as normal," the army said in a statement. The two crossings were closed on Monday.

Kerem Shalom, which lies at the southern tip of the Israel-Gaza border, is the crossing point for all commercial goods, while Erez, which lies at the northermost point of the strip, is the terminal for travellers. more