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Officials call for action as Bethlehem villages run dry

June 11, 2012 5:10 P.M. (Updated: June 13, 2012 5:03 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Rural villages near Bethlehem are facing a water crisis despite sitting on top of the second largest reservoir in the West Bank, an official delegation to the area said on Monday.

Seven villages have not had running water for more than 15 days, in an area with a population of 30,000, the joint services council for development and planning said.

Council chair Khader Hamdan said the Israeli national water company, which the Palestinian government purchases from, has not taken into account the area's increase in population since it started selling water 25 years ago.

The Palestinian Authority, only able to use 20 percent of West Bank water resources under a 1995 agreement with Israel, is forced to buy extra supplies from Israel's Mekorot company, the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene group says.

Hamdan called on the Palestinian Authority water and environment authorities to press Israel for increased water allocation, as well as to update the water distribution network in the area.

Meeting with local councils in Hindaza, Hanata, Beit Tamir, Zatara, Shawawra, Jubbet Al Dhib, and Kisan villages, Hamdan said the construction of water tanks could help solve the problem.

The chief of the Palestine Water Authority warned in January that Israel was systematically destroying Palestinian water infrastructure in areas under its military control.

Negotiations to resolve the allocation of water have failed, Shaddad Attili said, adding that the Joint Water Committee established in the Oslo Accords effectively gave Israel veto power over all Palestinian water projects.

Water is one of the six final-status issues to be resolved in a peace agreement, alongside settlements, refugees, borders, security and Jerusalem.

"Without water, and without ensuring Palestinian water rights, there can be no viable or sovereign Palestinian state," Attili warned.
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