The siege on Gaza, combined with the constant violent incursions by the IOF, has negatively impacted every human right of the citizens in the Gaza Strip.
Among them are the right to water and the right to health, both of which have been directly and indirectly violated by Israeli policies and military attacks.
Since 1967 Israel's policies have seriously deteriorated the quality and quantity of the water and sanitation system in the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank.
Since the strengthening of the siege in 2006, the situation has become increasingly worse, and the Israeli Cast Lead Offensive (the Offensive) in December 08/January 09 has pushed the situation to the brink of disaster.
Because Israel is not allowing the entry of materials to repair and build new infrastructure in the water sector, the existing facilities are deteriorating at a rapid rate.
This rate was increased during the Offensive, which led to the destruction of 112 wells, thousands of meters of pipes and several key water tanks.
As a result many Gazans lost their access to clean water during the Offensive and many continue to have problems of access.
The continued closure policies following the Offensive have also increased the already massive damage caused by sewage seeping into the ground and polluting many clean water sources, including the fresh water aquifer, Gaza’s main source of clean water.
The limitations on electricity coming from Israel throughout the last two years, and especially during the Offensive, have exacerbated the water crisis by obstructing the water facilities from operating properly.
This includes the sewage treatment plants.
The lack of electricity has affected the functioning of wells and other facilities.
During the Offensive people who had water supplies in tanks were not able to access them due to the pumps not working because of the lack of electricity.
In addition, residents of Gaza's many high-rise buildings could not pump water to their homes owing to the constant electricity cuts.
As the occupying power, Israel has an obligation to ensure that Palestinians have access to sufficient clean water, among other basic necessities.
In addition, it has the obligation during times of war to avoid bombarding civilian infrastructure, including the water sector, and to allow technical teams to fix water networks that may be damaged as a result of the hostilities.
Due to the damage caused by the siege and the Offensive, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as much as one fifth of the population of the Gaza Strip is not being provided with clean water and is being forced to obtain water from private suppliers, Israel’s direct obstruction of Gazans’ right to access basic necessities needed for their survival constitutes a war crime that must be condemned internationally.