Hundreds of Gaza's water and sanitation facilities have been damaged

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,- The fighting in Gaza has resulted in a catastrophic humanitarian situation where the infrastructure related to water and sanitation has been destroyed to startling degrees. BBC Verify's most recent satellite analysis shows that since Israel intensified its military operations against Hamas, a number of sites have been affected. A crucial human right, water is now in short supply since desalination facilities and vital water supply networks have suffered serious damage. 

Interestingly, the area is in more pain because a vital supply depot needed for repairs has also been targeted. Aid agencies claim that the consequent unhygienic conditions endanger public health and raise the possibility of waterborne illnesses. But the Israel Defence Forces contend that Hamas constantly moves, endangering civilian buildings by merging military operations and causing collateral damage. Protection of civilian infrastructure is required by the law of war, unless there is clear military need. Human rights lawyers do point out, though, that the degree of devastation seems to go against this idea.

The BBC was given a list of sites for its investigation by the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), which included more than 600 water and sanitation facilities. According to the report, damage to more over half of them has occurred since October when the fighting started. Importantly impaired water treatment systems are those that prevent the buildup of sewage and the transmission of disease. Among the impacted are wells and pumps, whose functions oscillate between barely functional and total failure. In Bureij, for example, wastewater treatment systems exhibit deterioration and neglect.

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A further victim is the Unicef-run desalination plant in Deir al-Balah, which is only operating at 30% of capacity because of fuel shortages. While on-site verification is hampered by the inherent limits of remote analysis, satellite imaging—looking at images both before and after significant conflict dates—provides a clear picture of destruction. Residential areas have not escaped this disaster; many homes are still without working water supplies. Those who are now seeking refuge in improvised camps in Gaza must also deal with the extra health risk that is presented by the nearby sewage. 

 Tragically, in January a missile attack severely damaged a vital CMWU maintenance warehouse, making it much more difficult for Gaza to repair its water infrastructure. Among other amenities, the loss of this depot—which was shared with Unicef—has seriously impeded attempts to maintain water pipelines. Contact with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) on many hacked sites produced a range of answers, from flat denials of the strikes to claims that Hamas fighters were the intended targets. Examined within the bounds of international law, the pattern of damage suggests either a reckless disregard for civilian property or perhaps deliberate elimination.

The extensive harm done to Gaza's water and sanitation systems raises questions about deliberate targeting as opposed to random, haphazard attacks. Special Adviser Leila Sadat of the International Criminal Court (ICC) stresses that evaluating these incidents calls for a comprehensive approach as opposed to a piecemeal one. Sara Elizabeth Dill, an attorney who focuses on international criminal and human rights law, sees the incidents similarly as a kind of siege warfare that exposes a contempt for both human life and international conventions. 

The urgent requirement for clean water makes Gaza's future uncertain as the crisis develops. While the populace makes their way through the debris of their once-functional water system, the main storyline is one of survival as much as conflict. We have an obligation as international observers to draw attention to these humanitarian issues and to promote the protection of necessities in the midst of conflict. Such findings propel a call to action for global engagement to restore fundamental services.  Targeting a wide audience and search engine optimised, this material seeks to increase knowledge, spark conversation, and promote prompt action in resolving Gaza's water issue. 

Source : BBC News
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