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Environmental Status of Gaza Poses Threat to Israel

Environmental Status of Gaza Poses Threat to Israel

June 5, 2019

Desert & Water Research

Haaretz – The collapsing water, sewage and electricity infrastructure in the Gaza Strip pose material danger to Israel’s groundwater, seawater, beaches, and desalination plants, warns a report created by Ben-Gurion University and Tel Aviv University.

Burning garbage, plus the launching of incendiary balloons floated from Gaza as attacks on Israel, are already creating a problem of air pollution in Israeli territory, the report notes.

Palestinian Hussein Al-Najjar, 14 years old, fills a donkey-pulled cart with recyclable waste and other items he collected at a garbage dump in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 16, Credit: AFP

The report was prepared for the environmental organization EcoPeace Middle East – a trilateral environmental NGO promoting cooperation between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.

Sewage contamination also endangers an important source of groundwater for Israel southeast of Ashkelon. Israel diverts some Palestinian sewage to a treatment plant in Sderot. Leakage, especially during winter flooding, threatens to contaminate groundwater. Moreover, when a stream becomes contaminated, it is all the more inviting for mosquitoes, which are a vector of disease – including West Nile Fever.

Israel, until now, had been able to mitigate the effect of the environmental pollution from Gaza on Israel itself, by monitoring the quality of the seawater and closing down the Ashdod desalination plant if necessary. It could also treat Gazan sewage itself. But the more the population in Gaza grows, and with it, the quantity of sewage, the greater the danger that sustained damage will be caused to the beaches and the groundwater in Israel.

The report about the environmental state of affairs has implications for Israel’s national security, says Gideon Bromberg, the Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East. “Israel’s people, first and foremost, the residents of the south, are exposed as a result of the situation in Gaza to a multitude of threats, not only the ones we already knew about. Without urgent, vigorous action, plagues and infections will break out that could cost a great many lives, both in Israel and in Gaza, and no fence or Iron Dome can thwart them.”

If something isn’t done, the upshot could be political horror in the form of hundreds of thousands of Gazans fleeing for their lives toward Israel – for fear of catching disease, Bromberg said. “The responsibility for action isn’t only on Israel’s shoulders, but the need to act is clear and immediate.”

Read more on the Haaretz website >>