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Israeli wall traps rain, sewage in Palestinian town
Published Wednesday 09/01/2013 (updated) 11/01/2013 10:41
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Flooding in Qalqiliya on Sunday (MaanImages/Stringer)

QALQILYA (Reuters) - Heavy winter downpours have turned some Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank into a morass of filth and flooding as an Israeli barrier blocks the waters from draining away.

In Qalqilya, a town of 42,000 in the northern West Bank almost completely surrounded by the concrete wall, Khaled Kandeel and his family huddled by an open fire in a shed as trash-laden water swelled through his pear orchard.

"Before the wall, the water used to drain fine, and flowed down to the sea easily. They could just flip a switch and end our suffering, but they don't," Kandeel said, his breath steamy from the winter cold.

Israel started building the barrier, a mix of metal fencing, barbed wire and concrete walls, in 2002 in response to a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings.

Drainage channels run under the imposing ramparts but their automated metal gates are mostly closed and now clogged with refuse and stones that block the outflow of storm water.

The Israeli military, citing security reasons, generally bars locals from clearing the obstructions or digging their own channels close to the barrier.

Built mostly within occupied land and not on the "Green Line" which was Israel's de facto border before the 1967 Middle East War, the barrier inside the West Bank is deemed illegal by the UN's International Court of Justice.

It directly impacts the farming, grazing and environment of about 170 communities, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, says.

Hemmed-in residents of northern towns in the West Bank have been deprived of large swathes of rural land, forcing poorly-regulated waste dumping closer to farms and homes.

Driving rain could not mask the stench of raw sewage being unloaded from a tanker on a village road outside Qalqilya on Tuesday, its putrid contents mixing with the brown torrent pouring past olive trees clustered on the hills.

"Raw sewage is disposed near, or on, agricultural land resulting in the contamination of soil and groundwater," UNRWA said in a report.

Sunk souq

Planning restrictions, inked as part of interim peace accords by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators almost two decades ago, widely limit locals' ability to build water infrastructure or repair damaged or polluted wells.

But in Hebron, whose old city is a flashpoint of conflict with Jewish settlers, rare coordination with the Israeli military allowed Palestinian officials to lift the concrete slabs which separate the ethnic enclaves to relieve flooding.

"We removed the concrete to prevent the passage of water to the old city souq, where flooding reached up to one meter," said Walid Abu Halawa of Hebron's construction commission.

"We also opened holes in the iron barrier built by the Occupation at the terminus of the souq," he told Reuters.

Ten years after work on the barrier began and with no suicide bombings against Israel for almost four years, construction has slowed amid opposition from local groups and international organizations.

Last month, Israel's high court and its Nature and Parks Authority urged the military not to build a wall near Battir, fearing it would damage the Palestinian village's millennia-old irrigation terraces.

In nearby Walaja village, dynamite and stone foundations used to embed a section of concrete wall degraded soil quality and impaired the natural flow of water downhill toward Jerusalem, residents said.

Plans to complete the wall and enclose the village on all sides, with a single gate for entry and exit comings and goings, are opposed by locals and even some neighboring Israeli settlers, who regard the barrier as unnecessary given the current calm.
1 ) Arnold / Canada
09/01/2013 21:24
So what. In the long run all the underground water cisterns are being refilled.

2 ) shirley S / australia
10/01/2013 13:29
pull down the illegal wall implode if Isreal wantsa awall let it build one arouynd its legal borders this wall has been deemed iLlegaltime for the state of Palestine to implode itthis illegal ghetto creating wall needs to go especially when it totally surrounds villages

3 ) Uh / USA
10/01/2013 14:04
Haha, stop blaming Israel for stupid nonsense!

4 ) Robert Haymond / Israel-Gush Etzion
10/01/2013 15:28
The Wall is to prevent terrorists, i.e., suicide bombers, from infiltration and it works. In spite of your constant criticism of Israel and its policies, Shirley S, we Jews are not going to allow Islamists to injure, maim and kill us in order to appease people like you.

5 ) Mel / USA
10/01/2013 17:27
Is it the State of Palestine's stench of raw sewage sewage that you are complaining about shirley S/ Austarlia ?

6 ) Juliette / Australia
12/01/2013 08:44
@ 4, You should build your wall in Israel if you want to have upper ground in this discussion, not on Palestinian land. Also, you don't want Jews to be maim or kill but it is ok for Jews to repress, colonise maim and kill Palestinian?

7 ) Charles Martel / France
13/01/2013 13:20
Juliette, Shirley S from Australia... Before you send nonsenses, you should go to this area, visit the countries yoy are talking about -as I did- and then come back and talk... You have no the slitest idea of what happening there... And I am sure you don't care about the palestinians, otherwise I could here from you about what happening in Syria. The truth is you just hate the Israelis ! PS: I am not Israeli nor jewish (and excuse my poor english, I'm french)

8 ) Outlier / USA
14/01/2013 06:23
"Better to light a candle than curse the darkness." Are there not Palestinians - or Israelis - able to create a proper drainage ditch with shovels, pickaxes or maybe a backhoe? This isn't rocket science.
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