On the boil

Published: Saturday 30 November 2002

It's a battle for the basics now between Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli infrastructure minister Effie Eitam has ordered a ban on all water drilling by Palestinians in West Bank. He alleges that they are drawing illegally from wells and depleting supplies. But Palestinian water commissioner Fadal Kawash has denounced the decision, saying: "They want us to be thirsty." According to Eitam, the ban was necessary as Palestinians were violating water-sharing agreements and carrying out illegal drillings. He says Israel would continue to supply the Palestinians with water to ensure that the latter do not plunge into a crisis. However, Kawash accused Israel of not honouring interim 1995 water agreements. Israel was to make it possible for the Palestinians to obtain enough water to overcome shortages. Of the 200 wells proposed by the Palestinians, Israel has approved only 14, points out Kawash. This has left more than 300,000 Palestinians in 240 villages without running water. Some Palestinians -- mostly around the West Bank city of Jenin -- have resorted to drilling wells illegally, explains Kawash.

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