Israeli President Warns That Gazan Infrastructure Is on Verge of Collapse, Blames Hamas

Reuven Rivlin says many residents in Gaza Strip will be left without sanitary conditions and clean drinking water, rejects accusations that Israel is responsible for situation

Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
President Reuven Rivlin visiting the headquarters of the Gaza Division in IDF Southern Command, January 21, 2018.
President Reuven Rivlin visiting the headquarters of the Gaza Division in IDF Southern Command, January 21, 2018.Credit: Mark Neiman/GPO
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin warned Sunday that the Gaza Strip is on the verge of collapse and blamed Hamas for the dire situation facing Gazans.

Speaking during a tour of the Gaza border region, where he received a review of the current challenges in the field from members of the Israel Defense Forces, Rivlin said that “the time is coming near when the infrastructure in Gaza will collapse, leaving many civilians in distress, with no sanitary conditions, exposed to pollution, impure water and epidemics.”

Rivlin added that it is Hamas, not Israel, preventing the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip. “Israel is the only one in the region that, whatever the situation, transfers basic essentials to the residents of Gaza so that they can sustain body and mind,” he said.

“Regrettably, Hamas has once again exploited the plight of the Gaza Strip’s civilians and is using materials meant to benefit the lives of the residents for terrorist purposes,” Rivlin continued. “One cannot remain silent in the face of these injustices. We will not tolerate accusations of blame. I call on all world nations, to all who are able and have the influence, to pressure those ruling Gaza, to pressure Hamas, to accept responsibility for their actions and the lives of their people.”

During the meeting at Gaza Division headquarters, IDF commanders provided the president with a detailed report of efforts to end the threat of cross-border attack tunnels, among other operational issues.

Rivlin labeled Hamas “a terror organization that does not recognize our existence and has as its goal to damage and destroy the State of Israel. Hamas is developing terrorist bases in hospitals, in mosques, in schools. It continues to invest its energy in military armament, in building terror tunnels, in planning terror attacks against the State of Israel. We are not complacent. We know that the next operation, if it will be forced upon us, will be different and harder than those before. But we are determined to arrive at it ready, trained, with the element of surprise and not surprised, and to strike the enemy harshly and firmly.

“Even in days of calm, our forces stand constantly in the face of the danger,” Rivlin added. “They are operating in highly complex conditions, against forces looking to undermine them very literally from above and below. We will not rest until there is quiet, until we have built a barrier of iron, a wall of iron, which together with Iron Dome [the missile defense system] will defend the residents from those who wish them ill. The day will come when they will understand that we are here to stay and flourish.”

Haaretz reported Sunday that 97 percent of the drinking water in Gaza is impotable due to contamination by sewage or excessive salinity. As a result, most people in Gaza don’t drink tap water but instead purchase their water from private entities that operate small desalination plants in the Strip – paying six times the cost of ordinary water. Gazans use the contaminated water for other household uses, but even that is in short supply. Moreover, because of the economic distress in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority doesn’t have enough money or electricity to operate desalination and sewage treatment facilities.

As reported in Haaretz last November, the Israeli coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, has called for large sums of money to be channeled to Gaza to improve the economy. In an article, Mordechai wrote he believed there was a “Gordian knot” connecting security and civilian and economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, and that worsening conditions will lead to escalation between Israel and Hamas. He therefore recommended that Israel support steps that he said would bring relief to the civilian population in Gaza.

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