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Bethlehem-area residents close main road to protest water shortages

July 11, 2016 8:25 P.M. (Updated: July 12, 2016 1:29 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Residents of the village of al-Khader in the southern occupied West Bank closed the main road connecting the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron on Monday to protest ongoing water shortages.

The road closure caused a large-scale traffic jam, as protesters used rocks and car tires to block the way.

Al-Khader Mayor Ishaq Sbeih had previously said that Bethlehem police and officials at the Water Authority had promised to pump water to the village on Monday.

However, when the water delivery failed to take place, al-Khader residents took to the streets to protest the disconnection of water.

Sbeih told Ma'an the protest ended with difficulty after promises by Palestinian leadership to provide the village with water on Tuesday.

Sbeih added that more than half of the village residents suffered from the water crisis, as they had not received water since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in early June.

Several areas of Bethlehem have suffered from longer-than-average water shortages in recent weeks, and the crisis previously sparked clashes between Israeli forces and local youths. A Palestinian youth was injured in the al-Duheisha refugee camp on Friday after Israeli forces suppressed a demonstration there with live fire.

Meanwhile, weeks-long water shortages have been reported from across the occupied West Bank, particularly in the northern districts of Nablus, Jenin, and Salfit, after Israel’s national water company Mekorot shut off supply.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's office has called the move “inhumane and outrageous'" especially while Palestinian Muslims observed the holy month of Ramadan fast throughout the hot summer days.

“Israel wants to prevent Palestinians from leading a dignified life and uses its control over our water resources to this end; while illegal Israeli settlements enjoy uninterrupted water service,” Hamdallah said at the time. “Palestinians are forced to spend great sums of money to buy water that is theirs in the first place.”

While Mekorot released a statement admitting it had implemented a reduction of water supplies in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) denied the reports, blaming water cuts in Salfit on a burst water pipe, and even claiming that the water supply had in fact been increased for Ramadan.

COGAT also told Ma’an at the time that Palestinians “don’t cooperate for the improvement of the water flow in the region.”
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