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November 06, 2007

Sand and the Cesspool

gaza-sewage sand.jpe

Um Al Nasser, March 2007/Photo by Khalil Hamra, AP

In the International Herald Tribune today, Steven Erlanger reports that Gaza faces another sewage disaster similar to the one last March in Um Al Nasser, in which five people died. He quotes an Israeli official, Shlomo Dror, as saying that the lagoon broke last March "because there is no security there and people were stealing the sand."

But it's not only an Israeli official who blames the Um Al Nasser sewage disaster on Palestinian sand thieves -- so does a Gaza mayor. As the Age (Australia) reported last spring:

Gaza City Mayor Majid Abu Ramadan, who leads a council of Gaza municipalities, blamed the collapse on endemic lawlessness.

He accused local residents of stealing the dirt and selling it to building companies for 300 shekels ($A86.80) a truckload.

Likewise, another Palestinian source, the independent weekly Jerusalem Times, reported on Gaza municipality health warnings about sand thieves as far back as June 18, 2004:

The Municipality of Gaza recently warned local, international and environmental media from the expected collapse [sic] and destruction of one of the strategic serviceable establishments in Gaza. The collapsing of the sewage treatment water tank will convert Gaza province into a catastrophic area that will affect the Palestinians’ health and environment.

The municipality’s representatives said that some vandals were able to remove (steal) the sand surrounding these huge establishments for commercial use . . . .

[Palestinian general manager in Gaza municipality Mohammed Akram] Halas said that this huge sewage waste water tank is considered as a national priority and called on the local Palestinians to stop from removing and transferring the sand surrounding the tanks, in which these sand retaining walls were erected to protect the reservoirs from possible collapsing of the tanks to reduce possible risks on the Palestinians . . . .

The Palestinian general manger of the water and sewage waste water department in the Gaza municipality, Engineer Hazem Tarazi, mentioned that the tank is considered a vital part for using the waste water and treating it. . . . (“Vandals Undermine Sewage Operation”)

Also, while Erlanger reports in great detail about the shortage of steel pipes due to Israeli restrictions, he minimizes Israeli security concerns about their use in making rockets. He refers to Israeli restrictions on imports of

any materials -- from metal pipes to welding machines to the wire used to refurbish electric motors -- that Israel has decided could have a secondary use by the Hamas administration and the Palestinian gunmen who are firing rockets across the border into Israel.

Erlanger makes the Israeli decisions sound arbitrary, as if there isn't any history behind them. In fact, there is, though Erlanger doesn't bother to recount it. As the Jerusalem Post reported just prior to the Um Al Nasser disaster last spring:

On February 9, the Shin Bet arrested Amar Azk, 37 [a metal merchant at the Karni crossing]. During his interrogation, he confessed selling the pipes to Hamas and other terrorist organizations that manufactured Kassam rockets, fired almost daily at Israel. The Shin Bet said Azk's activities began with the start of the second intifada in 2000 and were only brought to a halt by his arrest. The agency could not say how much metal Azk traded, except that it was "significant."

The pipes that were sold to Zak were intended for the construction of a sewage system in Gaza.


Posted by TS at November 6, 2007 08:07 AM

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