Gaza’s Water System Collapsing Due to IDF Strikes, Says Red Cross

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Damage from an earlier IDF airstrike in the Gaza Strip. The water and sewage systems are in danger of collapse, the Red Cross warns.Credit: Reuters

Repeated bombardments are destroying the vulnerable water system in Gaza, and the deaths of a number of local water authority technicians stresses the danger they face as they perform essential maintenance work, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are now without water. Within days, the entire population of the Strip may be desperately short of water,” Jacques de Maio, head of the ICRC delegation in Israel and the occupied territories, said in a press release Tuesday.

Both water and electricity supplies have been affected by the current round of hostilities, de Maio said. “If they do not stop, the question is not if but when an already beleaguered population will face an acute water crisis,” he added.

Hospitals, refugee camps, schools and homes are all unable to function without water and electricity, the press release noted. The escalating fighting has also stopped technicians from making essential repairs.

Following the deaths of a number of water technicians, the local water authority halted water supply until the safety of its staff could be assured. As a result, hundreds of thousands more people will soon find they have no water when they turn on their taps, the press release also said.

“Gaza’s water system has been deteriorating for years,” said ICRC water and sanitation expert Guillaume Pierrehumbert. “The latest attacks are the last straw. Safe drinking water is becoming increasingly scarce in the Strip, just as temperatures are soaring. Water is becoming contaminated and sewage is overflowing, bringing a serious risk of disease.

“In recent days, ICRC teams have helped the authorities conduct essential emergency repairs to water and sanitation infrastructure in Gaza, improving the situation for over 90,000 people, but bolder action is urgently required.”

Every repair of the water or electricity network requires coordination between the Red Cross and the Israel Defense Forces so the technicians can go out to make repairs, and sometimes the repairs take days. This was the case in the Shati refugee camp, where one of the two water mains to the camp was hit on the first day of the current round of hostilities, July 8, and was repaired only on Saturday, July 19.

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