Israel will reportedly build a new pipeline to take raw sewage that has been spilling into the country from the Gaza Strip and process it on the Israeli side.
The effluent from the towns of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun on the northern Gaza border has been spilling into Israel, polluting groundwater and creating an environmental hazard.
“For more than two years, we have been struggling with the flow of sewage from Gaza into Israel,” David Rosenberg, an engineer with the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in a report published Wednesday, calling the situation “a real danger to public health.”
With the Hamas government struggling to run Gaza, the sewage treatment system there collapsed in 2017, resulting in thousands of cubic meters of raw sewage spilling into the Israeli side daily. The Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council of communities that border Gaza was forced to take action to prevent further environmental damage.
An interim solution had been to collect the sewage and pump it via the existing network to the treatment plant that serves Sderot and the surrounding communities, the report said. But the additional wastewater from the Palestinian towns had overloaded the system and caused the sewage pipeline to burst, resulting in pollution and a foul odor on the Israeli side.
Work is expected to start this month on the new pipeline, which will run along the northern border between Gaza and Israel through agricultural fields and be connected to the regional sewage treatment plant on the Israeli side, the report said.
The sewage solution comes amid the implementation of an unofficial truce deal reached in early May between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that ended two days of intense fighting.
That deal reportedly includes a Hamas obligation to halt violent clashes along the border fence and an end to the launching of incendiary balloons at Israeli communities. In return, Israel is to take numerous steps including expanding the fishing zone and continuing to allow millions of dollars in cash to be brought from Qatar to help ease social pressure on Hamas, under whose rule Gaza’s economy has declined.
Israel will fund the NIS 15 million ($4 million) bill for the new sewage line by deducting the cost from the tax revenues it transfers to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Yedioth reported.
“Under the given circumstances this is the best solution to ensure the safety of the Israeli residents of communities along the northern end of the (Gaza) Strip… in the face of dangerous pollution emanating from Gaza,” Rosenberg said.
On Monday it was reported that Israel’s national water company Mekorot started work on an upgraded fresh water pipeline to Gaza that will increase the flow of drinking water into the blockaded enclave.
The new pipeline will be the largest yet, and will run alongside one of the old pipes and work in tandem with it. However, 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 Hamas and may collapse under the strain of a significant increase in the volume of water passing through it.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power from Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup in 2007. The Iran-backed Islamist terror group openly seeks Israel’s destruction and the two sides do not negotiate directly.