Palestinian residents in West Bank facing severe water crisis

Mohammed Abu Qassem and his son pumping water from their tank to the roof of one of the residential buildings in Ramallah. (Photo/Mohammed Najib)
Mohammed Abu Qassem and his son pumping water from their tank to the roof of one of the residential buildings in Ramallah. (Photo/Mohammed Najib)
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Updated 19 July 2022

Palestinian residents in West Bank facing severe water crisis

Bassam Darwish filling the water tank for his residential building. (Photo/Mohammed Najib)
  • Desperate villagers fear shortages could lead to further conflict with Israel

RAMALLAH: A Palestinian village surrounded by three Israeli settlements and an Israel Defense Forces military camp is in the grip of a severe water crisis, community leaders have revealed.

Nearly 3,500 residents of Duma village in Jordan Valley in the northern West Bank are struggling to find enough drinking water to meet their basic needs and sustain livestock. And many of them cannot afford the $100 cost of buying a water tank.

Suleiman Dawabsheh, head of Duma village council, told Arab News that local residents received just 1,280 cups of water per week, and that four nearby Bedouin communities also relied on Duma for water supplies.

They call us the thirsty village due to the small amount of water that reaches us and the small amount of rain that falls annually, which does not exceed 420 millimeters.

Suleiman Dawabsheh, Head of Duma village council

He said: “They call us the thirsty village due to the small amount of water that reaches us and the small amount of rain that falls annually, which does not exceed 420 millimeters.”




Photo: Mohammed Najib

Dawabsheh claimed that settlers had prevented them from rehabilitating four springs in the village that could have contributed to alleviating the water shortage.

“We have large numbers of livestock that consume vast quantities of water, especially this summer that has been hotter than previous ones, and as a result we cannot find enough water for human use and watering sheep.”

Duma is just one example of many Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank — where 3 million people live — suffering from a lack of water.

Meanwhile, many of the 700,000 people living in Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank are thought to have access to plentiful supplies of water for drinking, filling swimming pools, irrigating crops, and washing vehicles.

Huge black-and-es have been accused of syphoning off 85 percent of Palestinian water and then re-selling it to them, while also refusing license applications to drill additional wells or install booster pumps.

Bassam Darwidh, a supervisor of five residential and commercial buildings in Ramallah housing around 65 apartments and stores, told Arab News that this year’s water crisis had been worse than last year as the number of hours and days of pumping water to citizens’ homes had been reduced. Sometimes, he said, water could take up to 10 days to reach the area.

“Every day, I receive inquiries from residents in the buildings under my responsibility, and they all ask me when the water will arrive? Why is the water cut off? I do not have an answer for them, and some residents ask me for the phone number of the owner of a water tank to buy a tank at his expense,” he added.

Darwish pointed out that supplies had been dwindling since April.

SPOTLIGHT

In the Jordan Valley village of Duma in the northern West Bank, nearly 3,500 residents are struggling to find enough water to meet their basic needs and sustain livestock, and many cannot afford the $100 cost of a water tank.

The village receives only 1,280 cubic meters of a water a week, which must also supply four nearby Bedouin communities.

Thirty-four of the 42 water wells controlled by Israel’s national water company Mekorot were on Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley. The Palestinian Authority has requested that Israel increase the amount of water sold to the West Bank, but the Israelis claim the Palestinian water infrastructure was not capable of handling larger quantities.

Mahmoud Barham, mayor of Beita, south of Nablus, said his town of 15,000 people was only receiving 50 percent of its water requirements.

“We need 2,400 cups of water, but Mekorot supplies us with only 120 cups and pumps them to our town intermittently. For eight years, the company has refused to increase the amount of water, despite the large increase in the population of the town,” he added.

He noted that the Israeli authorities would not allow digging for water wells on land belonging to the village.

Bassam Al-Sawalhi, director of operations at the Jerusalem Water Undertaking, told Arab News that he was still able to provide the 380,000 residents of Ramallah and Al-Bireh areas with their basic water needs, despite constraints. And he said the authority was seeking to rehabilitate water wells around Ramallah in a bid to alleviate the crisis.

Although the average daily water consumption rate was between 60,000 and 65,000 cubic meters during the summer, Al-Sawalhi pointed out that the Jerusalem Water Undertaking could only supply 53,000 cubic meters a day to its customers.

Mekorot has reduced supplies to 32,000 cubic meters per day from 38,000 in previous years and has been accused of transferring the difference to Israeli settlements around Ramallah.

On July 1, dozens of Palestinian youths closed the southern entrance to Bethlehem in protest at water shortages in the city.

But Israeli authorities maintain it is the job of the Palestinian Authority to provide its citizens with water. Al-Sawalhi claimed that Israel delivered an additional 76 million cubic meters of water per year, using 200 connection points.

One Palestinian resident of Ramallah, Mohammed Abu Qassem, who owns a water tank, told Arab News that his mobile phone never stopped ringing with residents and owners of cafes, restaurants, and hotels offering to buy his tank.

He said the current situation would probably not ease until the beginning of November. “I think the next war between the Palestinians and the Israelis will be a war over water, not just land,” he added.


Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’

Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’
Updated 02 October 2022

Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’

Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’
  • After Facebook, Instagram clamp down on content, Chinese-owned platform sees user surge

RAMALLAH: Palestinian activists are turning to TikTok to rally against activities by Israel, which accused the social media platform of igniting the security situation in the Middle East in recent weeks.

Israel had successfully pushed Meta to block thousands of Palestinian accounts and content from its social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, in addition to limiting Palestinian content through Twitter and Snapchat. However, TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has rejected the Israeli allegations and refused to change its policies.

Thousands of Palestinian social media activists switched to TikTok during the past few weeks to enjoy online freedom and bypass Facebook’s restrictions.

Amer Hamdan, a Palestinian political activist, told Arab News that he recently switched from Facebook to Tiktok after suffering from restrictions imposed by the former, which he said flags the use of words including martyr, resistance and occupation.

Hamdan, who had 200,000 followers on his Facebook page, added that his account was closed because he published a picture of Khalil Al-Wazir, the Palestinian leader who Israel assassinated in Tunisia in 1988.

“Because Facebook is no longer the ideal platform for the Palestinians to spread their cause, the alternative is TikTok, which provides an adequate and sufficient space for the dissemination of media covering armed parades of Palestinian military groups and pictures of Palestinian resistance fighters with their weapons,” said Hamdan.

TikTok previously ranked third in Palestine — after Facebook and Instagram — in social media app usage. However, it jumped to second place during recent weeks, with Palestinian social media experts telling Arab News that though 3 million Palestinian accounts are on Facebook, more than 1 million Palestinians are on TikTok, with the number rapidly increasing.

Palestinian activists also see more technical flexibility while publishing on Tiktok compared to Facebook, with the platform allowing three-minute clips for all users, and 15-minute videos for users who have 1,000 followers or more.

“Within a year, TikTok will be the number one social media platform used by Palestinians,” Hamdan said.

Sam Bahour, an expert in business development affairs, said that social media is gaining “exceptional importance” for Palestinians by enabling them to communicate and bypass Israeli restrictions across the West Bank, Gaza Strip, as well worldwide through the diaspora.

Ahmed Al-Qadi, from a center that specializes in researching social media activities, told Arab News that after the violent events in the Palestinian territories last May and after Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube removed Palestinian content, people switched to TikTok.

On the other hand, Israeli political analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem told Arab News that TikTok is a “tool of dangerous influence” and incites violence through videos glorifying attacks against Israelis.

Ben-Menachem added that TikTok content targets young people, who are particularly vulnerable to misinformation and propaganda.

Last May, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with senior officials from ByteDance, demanding that the company block Palestinian content. But Gantz’s appeal was denied, with the company only promising to pay more attention to published content.

Young Palestinians have filmed Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities and towns, house demolitions, arrests, killings, settler attacks and racist treatment, with the content going viral on TikTok.

Despite the Israeli government’s anger, officials do not expect TikTok to take any action against Palestinian accounts, whether based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or abroad.

“Maybe TikTok will close a few Palestinian accounts, but thousands of accounts that incite against Israel will remain active, and whoever loses his account can open a new account under a pseudonym,” said Ben-Menachem, adding: “TikTok has become the most dangerous means of incitement against Israel.”


International community urges Yemeni parties to renew truce

International community urges Yemeni parties to renew truce
Updated 02 October 2022

International community urges Yemeni parties to renew truce

International community urges Yemeni parties to renew truce
  • Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday urged the Houthis to “positively” comply with initiatives and efforts to renew the truce
  • Rashad Al-Alimi, president of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, expressed his government’s support for the UN Yemen envoy’s efforts to extend the truce

AL-MUKALLA: A six-month-old UN-brokered ceasefire in Yemen’s war between Iran-backed Houthis and the Arab coalition ended on Sunday with no word from the rivals on whether it would be extended.

The US, UK, China, other world powers and the secretary-general of the Arab League have all urged Yemen’s government and the Iran-backed Houthis to extend the UN-brokered truce.

Despite mounting pressure, only the Yemeni government had earlier agreed to extend the truce.

The US ambassador to Yemen, Steven H. Fagin, expressed concern about the various Yemeni parties’ hesitation to express their support for extending the truce.

“I call on the parties not to squander the progress of the last six months and to prioritize the Yemeni people by accepting an extension and expansion of the truce,” Fagin said in a brief statement. 

On Sunday, the UK Ambassador to Yemen Richard Oppenheim reissued the same call to the Houthis and other Yemeni parties to follow the UN envoy’s suggestions for extending the truce.

“I encourage the Houthis to work with the UN to extend the Truce. It’s the only route that will provide an opportunity for them to deliver benefits for ordinary Yemenis” he said on Twitter. 

The UN-brokered truce, which began on April 2 and has been extended twice, has dramatically reduced violence in Yemen, allowed flights to leave Sanaa airport, and eliminated fuel shortages throughout the country by allowing dozens of fuel ships to reach the port of Hodeidah.

The only term of the truce that has not been implemented is the opening of roads in besieged Taiz, as the Houthis have refused to open at least one main road leading into and out of the city, which is the main demand of the Yemeni government.

As the UN Yemen envoy, Hans Grundberg, shuttled between Muscat, Riyadh, and Sanaa to persuade Yemeni leaders to renew the truce, foreign diplomats and humanitarian organizations in Yemen sent last-minute appeals to both sides on Sunday.

“China emphasizes its support for the special envoy and is willing to make unremitting efforts with the international community to resolve the Yemen issue,” the Chinese Embassy in Yemen said in a statement. 

The EU’s mission in Yemen also demanded that the Yemeni government and the Houthis accept the UN envoy’s proposal, renew the truce, and implement its provisions.

“Time to consolidate and develop a truce, including opening roads and agreeing on the payment of salaries, that has delivered and can bring more benefits to the #Yemeni people,” the mission said in a statement on Twitter.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday urged the Houthis to “positively” comply with initiatives and efforts to renew the truce and work to alleviate suffering.

The latest UN proposal includes a six-month cease-fire while the Houthis open only minor roads in Taiz, paying public employees in their territories, while the Yemeni government covers any shortfall in payments, allowing more fuel ships to enter Hodeidah port, and opening new routes from Sanaa to Muscat, Doha, and Mumbai. 

Rashad Al-Alimi, president of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, expressed his government’s support for the UN Yemen envoy’s efforts to extend the truce.

During a meeting with the UN envoy in Riyadh on Sunday, the Yemeni leader stated that he is committed to supporting any peace initiative to end the war in Yemen and alleviate the suffering of Yemenis, and he urged mounting pressure on the Houthis and their Iranian backers to stop undermining peace efforts.

In Sanaa, the Houthis rejected calls to renew the truce on Saturday night, threatening to resume military operations, including strikes on oil companies in government-controlled areas.


UN Yemen envoy expresses regret after truce expires without being extended

UN Yemen envoy expresses regret after truce expires without being extended
Updated 02 October 2022

UN Yemen envoy expresses regret after truce expires without being extended

UN Yemen envoy expresses regret after truce expires without being extended
  • The ceasefire has twice been renewed since April. 2 but expired on Sunday without being extended
  • Envoy said the extended and expanded truce would have provided critical benefits to Yemen’s population

RIYADH: The UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg expressed regret on Sunday that an agreement to extend and expand the truce in the country had not been reached.

“The truce that began on April.2, 2022 has offered a truly historic opportunity for Yemen. Building on the positive outcomes of the past six months, I submitted another proposal to the parties on Oct.1 to extend the truce for another six months, with additional elements,” Grundberg said in a statement.

The ceasefire has twice been renewed since April. 2 but expired on Sunday without being extended.

The proposal included the payment of civil servant salaries and pensions, the opening of specific roads in Taiz and other governorates, additional destinations for flights to and from Sanaa airport, unhindered entry of fuel ships into Hodeidah port, strengthening deescalation mechanisms, and a commitment to urgently release detainees, the envoy said.

It also included the initiation of negotiations for a ceasefire, the resumption of an inclusive political process, and economic issues.

The envoy said that the extended and expanded truce would provide additional critical benefits to Yemen’s population.

He thanked the Yemeni government for engaging positively with his proposal and said he will continue to work with both sides to find solutions.

“I am grateful for the constructive engagement at the leadership level from both sides over the past weeks. And I appreciate the position of the government of Yemen on engaging positively with my proposal. I will continue to work with both sides to try and find solutions,” Grundberg said.

The envoy urged the parties to maintain calm and refrain from provocations or any actions that could lead to an escalation of violence in the war-torn country.

“I urge them to fulfil their obligation to the Yemeni people to pursue every avenue for peace. Ultimately, Yemenis need an end to the conflict through an inclusive political process and a negotiated settlement. I will continue my relentless efforts to engage with the parties to quickly reach an agreement on a way forward,” he said.


King Abdullah II to make official visit to Oman

King Abdullah II to make official visit to Oman
Updated 02 October 2022

King Abdullah II to make official visit to Oman

King Abdullah II to make official visit to Oman
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Sultan Haitham bin Tarik will meet in Muscat

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II, accompanied by Queen Rania and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, will arrive in Oman on Tuesday for an official visit.

The king’s trip comes after an invitation from Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, Jordan News Agency reported.

During the two day visit, the two leaders will hold talks in Muscat about their deep bilateral ties as well as the most recent regional and international developments.

 


Jordan, Qatar discuss security cooperation

Jordan, Qatar discuss security cooperation
Updated 02 October 2022

Jordan, Qatar discuss security cooperation

Jordan, Qatar discuss security cooperation
  • Jordanian official noted its keenness to support Qatar during the World Cup

AMMAN: Jordan’s Director of the Public Security Directorate and the Qatari Ambassador to Jordan met on Sunday to discuss strengthening security and police cooperation, particularly in training, Petra News Agency reported.

Brig Gen Obaidullah Maaytah spoke with Sheikh Saud Bin Nasser Al-Thani about Jordan’s deep ties with Qatar, noting that the PSD was eager to support Qatar during the World Cup.

In turn, Al-Thani praised the PSD and emphasized the level of cooperation between Jordanian and Qatari police, urging continued efforts to expand bilateral cooperation.