Israel’s national water company Mekorot has begun work on an upgraded pipeline to Gaza that will increase the flow of drinkable water into the blockaded enclave.
The new pipeline will enter Gaza at its center, crossing over from the Eshkol Regional Council in Israel to connect to the Strip’s water system, the Ynet news site reported Monday.
There are three pipelines currently carrying freshwater from Israel into Gaza at three sites along the border. In agreements with the Palestinians, Israel committed to transferring 10 million cubic meters (2.6 billion gallons) of water each year to Gaza, but in practice transfers a bit more, roughly 11.5 million cubic meters (3 billion gallons).
The new pipeline will be the largest yet, and will run alongside one of the old pipes and work in tandem with it.
Construction work began in recent days, and is being conducted under heavy military guard out of fear that Gazan terror groups will open fire on the crews as the pipeline-laying work nears the border.
“Water is a basic thing. There’s an entire population in Gaza that doesn’t want war with Israel, and that population is the majority that is being controlled by Hamas,” one unidentified employee on the pipeline crew told Ynet.
“It’s a shame that’s the situation. Most of the people in Gaza are thirsty for water, but also hunger for a normal life and a better future for their children. They’re our neighbors, despite everything, and we can’t ignore what’s happening there.”
It is not immediately clear how much more water Israel can actually pump into Gaza, as the water infrastructure in the Strip itself has not been maintained by the territory’s Hamas rulers, and may collapse under the strain of a significant increase in the volume of water passing through it.
Israel and Hamas are said to be engaged in informal talks via third parties on rehabilitating some of the territory’s water and sewage infrastructure, which international organizations have warned have reached the point of collapse. Sewage from Gaza is pumped directly into the Mediterranean untreated, and often is simply released into the street, sparking fears of disease spread in the crowded enclave.
Recent weeks have seen tensions in the Gaza Strip soar, following a massive two-day flare-up last month between Israel and terror groups in the Strip, in which terrorists fired nearly 700 rockets, mortar shells and anti-tank guided missiles at southern and central Israel, killing four people.
The Israeli military struck back, hitting over 300 targets linked with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, including several rocket-launching teams. Twenty-five Palestinians were killed in the fighting, most of them members of terror groups.
Since March 30, 2018, Palestinians in Gaza have also participated in regular protests along the border, demanding Israel lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave and calling for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now a part of the Jewish state. The protests have included many acts of violence against Israeli security forces, and have seen at least 200 Palestinians killed.
Israeli officials maintain that the blockade it and Egypt have imposed on Gaza following Hamas’s takeover of the territory in 2007 is in place to prevent local terrorist groups from smuggling weapons and other warfighting resources into the Strip.