Gaza’s sewage system is in crisis.

According to The Independent, “War has stopped the plant doing the job it was built for: limiting the pollution of the Mediterranean by semi-treating the 40 million litres a day it pumps into the sea.” Sewage leakage goes directly into the sea and dirty water seeps into the ground and groundwater. The sewage system has been rendered ineffective due to Israeli restrictions on imports, infrastructure errors, continuing violence and increases in population.

Hamas’s takeover of the enclave last year was met with an Israeli embargo, limiting imports to mostly food and medicines. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, this has affected the ability of aid groups (including the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and CARE International) to import equipment like pipes in sufficient quantities on a regular basis.

The sewage crisis is not only a result of poor maintenance, for the population of Gaza has increased from 380,000 in 1967 to nearly 1.5 million, therefore adding pressure to an already insufficient sewage system. The ongoing violence and security situation has been an ongoing threat and hindrance to the sewage crisis as well, for resources are being directed elsewhere.

The Israeli embargo limits the amount of aid and supplies that can be imported, therefore acting as a significant prevention to resolving the issue. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is exacerbated by the sewage crisis, for it has fomented issues with clean water and sanitation.

There are three treatment plants in Gaza: one in the north, Beit Lahiya, one near Gaza City and one near Rafah. The treatment plan in the south, near Rafah, is the primary treatment lagoon; however, it lacks the capacity to treat a majority of the sewage it receives. Citizens near Khan Younis are still using septic tanks, and the overload on the Beit Lahiya plant led to the creation of a “great lake” of waste water that multilateral bodies and nongovernmental organizations are attempting to slowly drain. Five people have died in a torrent of filth from a smaller lake in 2006.

According to the ICRC, “The environmental situation in Gaza is bad and getting worse…While exact statistics are unavailable, 30,000-50,000 cubic meters of partially treated waste water and 20,000 cubic meters of raw sewage end up in rivers and the Mediterranean Sea. Some 10,000-30,000 cubic meters of partially treated sewage end up in the ground, in some cases reaching the aquifer, polluting Gaza’s already poor drinking water supply.”

While there have been plans to build new plants or fix existing ones, the problem of sewage is critical. Most of the financing is currently coming from donors, though the medium and short term goals are to continue to drain the Beit Lahiya basins and work to at least partially treat all waste water. This approach, however, depends on the borders opening up and full donor cooperation, along with the willingness of companies to bid on tenders.

Neti Gupta

Sources: Electronic Intifada, The Independent
Photo: Flickr

The United Nations Human Rights Council has just agreed to launch an investigation into violations that may have been committed by Israel during its last military offensive in Gaza.

The Gaza Health Ministry reported 664 Palestinian deaths from the attack; though it’s unclear how many of these were civilian, the United Nations estimates the count to be around 70 percent. With the country now under investigation, the Human Rights Council is pushing for increased precautions and an end to the blockade of Gaza, which is the underlying conflict between the two nations. Still, it’s unclear whether these actions from the U.N. will fix anything.

While Israel certainly holds more responsibility for the death count in the conflict (more than 550 Gazans were killed, compared to 25 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli citizens,) pressure from external forces is not changing the country’s stance on the issue.

“Israel must not agree to any proposal for a cease-fire until the tunnels are eliminated,” said Gilad Eran, the right-wing minister of communications. In fact, both sides remain adamant on their stance: while Israelis feel they withdrew from Gaza only to allow it to become a launching pad for rockets, Hamas refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

Israel’s envoy to the UNHRC, Eviatar Manor, responded to the HRC’s comments, stating that Hamas was in fact committing war crimes by using people as “human shields” and insisted that it was a terrorist group. “There can be no moral symmetry between a terrorist aggressor and a democracy defending himself,” Manor preached.

Nevertheless, the conflict’s lopsided death toll has raised skepticism from parties other than the United Nations. The United States’ Secretary of State, John Kerry, recently urged a cease-fire, as well. Yet the battle seems to only be half-finished.

“With Hamas there, there is no option for a political solution,” said Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “If anybody believes in peace negotiations, two-state solution, Gaza is clear proof we are far away.”

Nick Magnanti

Sources: The Guardian, CNN, The New York Times
Photo: Haaretz

crisis in gaza
Since the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers last month by the terrorist organization Hamas, tensions between Israel and Gaza have skyrocketed. Israel retaliated this week by launching missiles into Palestinian territory, killing over 120 Palestinians, including many women and children, and injuring over 800.

Residents are warned before the bombings, but local hospitals in Gaza are still overwhelmed and unable to effectively treat the inundation of patients.

Emergency rooms across the territory are crowded and patients have resorted to sleeping on hospital floors. In Al-Shifa hospital, the central medical center in Gaza, all 12 beds in the intensive care unit are in use.

Gaza launched numerous missiles into Israel this week as well.

“Gaza is completely missing about 30 percent of essential drugs,” said Ashraf al-Qedra, Gaza’s Health Ministry spokesman.

The numbers of medicines, gloves, urine catheters and other medical supplies are dwindling.

Fuel shortages have further limited what medical treatment Palestinians have access to. Only half of the ambulances have enough fuel to run, and hospital lights may fail within the next few days as generators give out. This puts patients who rely on incubators, dialysis machines and other lifesaving equipment at especial risk.

As violence continues to devastate the Israel and Palestine region, there is a beacon of hope, a potential for peace; many injured Palestinians have been treated in Israeli hospitals, despite the airstrikes on both sides. If other Palestinians and Israelis overcome the differences of nationality and religion, the death toll may finally slow.

– Adam Kaminski

Sources: Al Jazeera America, CNN, New York Times
Photo: JFJFP

Although not yet confirmed, there have been reports that the Algerian national football team will donate their World Cup prize money to the Gaza Strip.

Islam Slimani, renowned striker for the Algerian team, supposedly announced after their loss in the round of 16 that they will give their estimated $9 million prize money to Gaza.

If the reports are true, the team may be accused of bringing politics into sports. Last month, FIFA announced Argentina would face disciplinary action after the team presented a political banner prior to a match against Slovenia bearing the phrase “The Falkland Islands belong to Argentina.”

Since 2007, poverty and unemployment have increased greatly in Gaza, a territory self-ruled by the terrorist organization Hamas. About 1.2 million people out of the 1.8 million that live in the Gaza Strip live in refugee camps.

Poverty has been the only way of life for 50-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud al-Ashqar, who lives in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza. Al-Ashqar primarily depends on the education, health care and food rations provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. He has asked UNRWA many times to save his house, but his calls have been met with no success.

“The walls may collapse anytime, they would seriously fall down over our heads if I do not make some repair from time to time,” al-Ashqar said. “I have asked many organizations, including UNRWA, which is the care taker of refugees, to help us restore the house, but they all gave us a cold shoulder.”

Algeria’s alleged donation to the impoverished people of Gaza would help people like Mahmoud al-Ashqar. “They need it more than us,” Slimani said.

The Israel-Palestine issue is complicated, due to a long history of territory disputes and religious conflict. Violence has once again erupted from both sides and international organizations are actively working to quell tensions.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: The Independent, Daily Mail, The National, PressTV, Global Post
Photo: Fox Sports
Photo: International Business Times

For months, Israel and Egypt have bounced back and forth between missiles and peace talks. The most recent attempt at a ceasefire lasted mere hours. On July 15 in the earlier hours of the morning, the Israeli cabinet gathered to agree to the Egyptian-supported ceasefire set to begin at 9 a.m., along with Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups that reside in Gaza.

What seemed to be a hopeful outlook quickly turned into a fiery mess as Hamas backed out at the last second.

Hamas’ reasoning to back out of the ceasefire is vague, citing that the proposal written by the Egyptians barely assessed the needs of the Hamas leaders and heavily favored Israel more so than Hamas.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders have been asked to end the siege on Gaza and the Palestinian citizens that reside there. However, they decided to disregard the ceasefire. Instead, Hamas’s armed sector, Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, announced their presence in Israel would “increase in ferocity and intensity.”

In response, the Israeli military was forced to resume their operation against Hamas.

“Hamas has fired 47 rockets since we suspended our strikes in Gaza (this morning),” said an Israeli military agent.

NPR reporter Linda Gradstein said that during the eight days of non-stop fighting, Hamas fired more than 1,000 rockets at southern Israel and Israel bombed 1,600 sites affiliated with Hamas, according to an Israeli army spokeswoman.

The intensity of battle has left the Gaza Strip in ruins, with many Palestinians paying for it with their lives. The attempts at peace talks and ceasefires have left leaders with nothing but dirt and missiles in their hands.

With this conflict holding such deep roots in history, it is likely that it will take more than a few agreements to settle this centuries-old dispute.

“ [It is] clearly unsustainable that Israel would hold its fire any longer and let its cities be bombarded by rockets,” said an Israeli official during a conversation with Time Magazine.

The Gaza Strip inspires nothing but animosity between the groups fighting to control it, with little to no regard for those that are paying the steep price of war with their lives.

The lack of consideration for the loss of human life on both sides of this conflict leaves the world wondering how the end of the fighting can benefit anyone, especially as so much has been lost already.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, NPR, Time
Photo: NPR

israel and hamas
The third in a series of air strike conflicts since 2008 between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Operation Protective Eagle has been active for only two days, but has seen 430 Israeli air strikes, 41 Palestinian deaths and 160 rockets.

Late Tuesday, Hamas set off 40 long-range rockets, some of which were intercepted over Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There were no reports of injuries, but the attacks spurred the Israeli government to respond with even greater force. Israeli warplanes struck 150 sites said to harbor Islamist fighters in Gaza, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called up 40,000 reservists, so if it came to it, Israel would have the option of ground invasion.

Wednesday, Israel released at least 160 air strikes on Gaza. Hamas responded with just four rockets, one of which was an M302, the same type of missiles that were in a shipment Israel intercepted from Iran in March. Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Learner says even if Hamas forces pull back, Israel will not back down. “We’re beyond that point now,” he said to a CNN reporter. “Hamas are going to pay for the attacks that they’re carrying out – it’s just unacceptable.”

Israel tries to make up for the violence by warning Hamas targets of attacks. Occupants of a building about to be bombed are given a brief warning in Arabic to evacuate – usually around five minutes before being bombed – in Israel’s efforts to reduce civilian casualties and avoid charges of indiscriminate killings. These targeted houses belong to Hamas members involved in military activity, and many have been used as operations rooms.

This isn’t the first time Israel has practiced this policy. During Operation Cast Lead in late 2008, Israel used telephone calls and leaflets to tell occupants to leave before striking, or they fired missiles without explosive warheads onto the roof as a warning to leave before the real missile came. But, often the warnings are in vain, and groups like Human Rights Watch have criticized the attempts because they can’t truly pardon armed forces from their actions. Often, people die from the attacks anyway because they defy the warnings or don’t leave in time, and sometimes missiles don’t hit the building at which they were aimed.

Operation Protective Eagle seems like just a repeat of history, following Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. But this time, it looks like Israel is getting stronger, while Hamas’s position is weakening. Israel’s new defense against rocket attacked, based on the Iron Dome system, is more sophisticated. So far, in this attack, no injuries or deaths have been reported from the Israel side. Meanwhile, Hamas lacks allies it once had – Hizbollah and Syria – because of the Syrian war, and its alliance with Iran is under strain. Because it didn’t support President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Hamas has seen a sharp drop in financing from Iran. Israeli experts warn to also be careful of a weakened Hamas though, as it could lead to extremism.

– Rachel Reed

Sources: Reuters, CNN, New York Times, Telegraph Blog New York Times (2)
Photo: Reuters

Israeli teens
Rachel Frankel, mother of one of the kidnapped Israeli teens, victim Naftali Frankel, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council this week in an appeal to bring increased international attention to her son’s kidnapping. Frankel was one of three boys to have been kidnapped near Gush Etzion, Israel, on their way home from school on June 12. All three mothers, who have been actively voicing their support for increased attention to the case, have pleaded to the 47-nation council to do everything they can to bring back their boys. Yet, so far, the Council has remained silent.

U.N. Watch, an active NGO for human rights issues, invited Mrs. Frankel and the other two mothers, whom Frankel spoke on behalf of, to present in lieu of their slot at the council. “It is wrong to take children — innocent boys and girls — and use them as instruments in any struggle,” she said. In fact, as tensions over the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories rise, U.N. Watch hopes to bring more overall focus to the rising number of child and adolescent victims in these areas.

The mothers have received some support from officials. During her address, Mrs. Frankel publicly thanked the U.N. Secretary-General “for condemning the abduction of our boys” and the International Red Cross “for stating clearly that international humanitarian law prohibits the taking of hostages.” Comparatively, U.N. Watch has taken the most active role in the plight for returning the boys to safety, making the case the organization’s top priority.

While the boys have still yet to be found, security forces have informed the family that the boys are in fact still alive. As Israeli authorities continue searching for the boys (the investigation is about to hit its third week), two suspects have been named. Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, both Hamas Islamists and former convicts, are currently being actively pursued.

Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the two men in question are only a small part of the boys’ kidnappings. Hamas, the Islamist group that holds power in the Gaza strip of Palestine and the group behind the boys’ kidnappings, has continuously called for Israel’s “destruction.”  Meanwhile, the mothers of the victims — and the rest of the world — continue to anticipate the return of their boys.

To watch Mrs. Frankel’s speech at the U.N. Human Rights Council, click here.

— Nick Magnanti

Sources: The Algemeiner, Cleveland Jewish News, Canada Free Press, The Guardian, Huffington Post
Photo: The Guardian

Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach, 16, and Gilad Shaar, 19, were three Israeli boys found dead more than two weeks after being abducted on their way home from school in the West Bank in Israel. Since their abduction, the boys’ mothers were incredibly vocal about the return of their boys; Mrs. Frankel even addressed the U.N. to bring international attention to the issue. Now upon news of their death, those from Israel — and around the world — are looking for answers.

According to the Israeli military, the boys’ bodies were found on Monday afternoon in a field a few miles south of where they were last seen. The three boys were buried together on Thursday, and candlelight vigils honoring the boys lit up the sky in areas of the country. The discovery, which brought a tragic end to the search for the three boys, has laid further questions regarding Israel’s response.

Israeli Prime Minister  Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly blamed the abductions and deaths on Hamas, the militant Islamist group. Upon hearing of the boys’ deaths, Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of summoned senior ministers to address further action. “They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood,” he said. “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.”

Yet fault may not be so clearly placed on Hamas. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an Egyptian group responsible for an alarmingly high number of bombings and attacks, came forward this week saying it killed the three boys. The claim, which was published on the Jihadist Media Platform, came the day after the group pledged allegiance to ISIS, the violent radical group which has conquered vast amounts of Syria and Iraq. Yet terrorist groups often make false claims, and many officials believe this could be a ploy to divert attention away from Hamas, with whom the Egyptian group has ties.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu ensures that the Israeli military will find those responsible for the boys’ deaths. “Whoever was involved in the kidnapping and the murder will bear the consequences,” he said. “We will neither rest nor slacken until we reach the last of them.” These actions are already well underway. More than hundreds of Hamas activists have been arrested; dozens of homes and institutions in Gaza have been destroyed, and the Israeli army has launched 34 strikes targeting terror infrastructure. While none of this can bring back the boys, many hope it will prevent future abductions. As Israel continues the investigation, many countries — including the United States — have voiced support against these horrific crimes.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: CNN, Vocativ, TIME, CNN
Photo: Time