Israel ‘cut water supplies’ to East Jerusalem area amid heatwave

A view of Kafr ‘Aqab in occupied East Jerusalem, which is part of the area annexed and included in municipal Jerusalem following Israeli occupation [Getty]

Palestinians in an East Jerusalem neighbourhood have had access to water for just two days over the past week amid a deadly regional heatwave, with Israeli authorities blamed for the disruptions.

Kafr Aqab is home to around 100,000 residents, where water is issued via a Palestinian water supply company that buys from Israel’s national water company Mekorot, through Palestinian Authority mediation, Haaretz reported.

The Palestinian company said the issue was not under its control and asked customers “to ration water consumption”, as the region faces an intense heat wave. 

In a statement, Mekorot said it was not aware of a reduction in water supplies to the Palestinian neighbourhood and that the Palestinian Authority is ultimately responsibile for ensuring the transfer of water to companies in areas under its control.

Kafr Aqab has a unique situation. While it is part of Israeli annexed East Jerusalem, it is outside the separation barrier built by Israel which cuts through the West Bank. As a result, it suffers from Israeli neglect and there is a vacuum of authority, with the Palestinian Authority providing some services.

According to residents, up until a week ago water supplies were consistent but years of shortages had forced many homes to install water tanks on their rooftops. 

However, they warned that even with the additional storage of up to 1,500 litres, it is still insufficient. 

According to the Applied Research Institute–Jerusalem (ARIJ), it said that water has cut off by the Jerusalem Water Authority for long periods of time in the summer over the years. 

“Israeli control over Palestinian water resources causes obstacles to the organization of water pumping and distribution among populations,” ARIJ said. 

“The Jerusalem Water Authority distributes water to various areas on an interval basis because the amount of water available is not sufficient to supply all citizens.”

ARIJ recorded that in 2010, the quantity of water supplied to Kafr Aqab via the Jerusalem Water Authority was around 324,794 cubic meters per year but disruptions in supplies meant consumption was only 238,700 cubic metres per year. 

In 2017, Israeli rights organisation Ir Amim said: “It is Israel’s onus to ensure an adequate water supply to the residents of Kafr Aqab.”

For years, the supplier had called for an upgrade in the failing water infrastructure to cope with the problem, the rights group said

“Despite the enduring crisis, no Israeli authority or service provider – the [Jerusalem] Municipality, the Israeli water authority, the Gihon Company – has intervened to resolve the shortage,” it added.

Environmental group Climate Central said unusually hot weather conditions were set to be rising across the Middle East from 11 June to possibly beyond 13 June with temperatures between 30°C and 38°C expected in Jerusalem.

“Exposure to excessive heat increases the risk of heat-related illnesses such as exhaustion and stroke, and may aggravate underlying conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and many others,” Climate Central said in a recent report. 

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