Amnesty International is accusing Israel of pumping disproportionate amounts of drinking water from an aquifer it controls in the West Bank, depriving local Palestinians of their fair share.
The London-based human rights group also said in a report released on Tuesday that Israel had blocked infrastructure projects that would improve existing water supplies to Palestinians — both in the West Bank and those living in the Gaza Strip.
“This scarcity has affected every walk of life for Palestinians,” Amnesty’s researcher on Israel Donatella Rovera told The Associated Press in an interview Monday, ahead of the report’s release. “A greater amount of water has to be granted to them.”
Israeli officials deny the accusations.
Water is a major point of contention between Israelis and Palestinians and is considered an issue that must be resolved before the two sides could make peace.
The issue is compounded by the split in Palestinian territories, with the moderate Fatah movement governing the West Bank, while the militant Hamas rules the coastal Gaza Strip.
Israelis use more than four times the amount of water per person on average than do Palestinians, whose consumption falls far below the minimum amount recommended by the World Health Organisation, said the report.
The report especially focuses on the so-called Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank. It says that Israel uses more than 80 per cent of water drawn from the aquifer and while the Jewish state has other water sources, the aquifer is the West Bank’s sole supply of water.
As a result, the 450,000 Israelis who live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem use more water than the 2.3 million Palestinian residents, said Amnesty. Israel captured both areas from Jordan in the 1967 war. The Palestinians claim them as part of a future state.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev called Amnesty’s claims “completely ludicrous”, and said Israel holds the legal right to the aquifer since it was the first to discover, develop and pump from it.