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Israeli settlers flood Palestinian village with wastewater

Israeli settlers on Monday flooded Palestinian-owned lands in the village of Deir al-Hatab, to the east of the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus, with sewage and wastewater, causing a problem for the local farmers harvesting the olives, according to a local official.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank, told the official WAFA news agency that settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Elon Moreh flooded lands belonging to residents of Deir al-Hatab with wastewater damaging the trees as people are engaged in the olive harvest.

He said that most of this land is planted with olive trees, which poses a threat of losing this year’s crops.

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The issue of waste management has been ongoing for decades in the occupied West Bank. on 2017, some 83 million cubic metres of wastewater flowed throughout the occupied West Bank, of which approximately 19 million cubic meters originated from Israeli settlements built on Palestinian territory in violation of international law, according to the Knesset Research Institute.

Alon Cohen-Lifshitz, a researcher for the Israeli NGO Bimkom, tells Al Jazeera that many Israeli settlements do not have proper waste treatment facilities. About 12 percent of settlement sewage remains untreated and travels down into streams near Palestinian communities.

“This is caused by the fact that Israel declared uncultivated land in the West Bank, which is usually on the hilltops, as ‘state land,’” during the Israeli military takeover of the territory in 1967, Lifshitz explained. “Taking over the hilltops also made it so Israel could easily control the area.”

Palestinian communities are severely affected by settler-produced waste owing to many of their villages having been forced to move to lower agricultural lands after Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory. Therefore, “the sewage issue is a side effect of Israel’s matrix of control in the West Bank,” Lifshitz added.

In the case of Salfit, treatment plants in Ariel – one of Israel’s largest settlements in the West Bank with a population close to 19,000 – Ariel West, and the Barkan settlements routinely break down or overflow, causing raw sewage to flood into the al-Matwa valley and spring, exacerbating already existing waste issues in Palestinian communities.

The Salfit local council has been forced to build four-metre high walls along the al-Matwa spring to protect the city’s central water-pumping station from being flooded by the wastewater, according to a report by B’Tselem.

Up until a few years ago, local Palestinian waste from Salfit city had also contributed to the pollution in the spring. However, the Salfit municipality has since constructed an underground sewage system to transport local waste from the area, releasing it further down the valley.

Palestinians in Salfit have been attempting to establish a waste treatment facility for years; but, like scores of other Palestinian communities, they have been prevented from doing so by Israeli restrictions on Palestinian development in the majority of the West Bank.

B’Tselem’s report noted that the pollution had caused the local extinction of several species that had once inhabited the area, including deer, rabbits, and foxes. Boars are now the only animals left alive there, according to the group.

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