The Washington Post - 29.08.2019

(Joyce) #1

A8 EZ RE THE WASHINGTON POST.THURSDAY, AUGUST 29 , 2019


The World


LEBANON


Israeli drones come


under fire near border


Lebanese army gunners
opened fire at two of three Israeli
reconnaissance d rones
Wednesday after they entered
Lebanese airspace, a security
official and the s tate news agency
said, amid heightened tensions
between Lebanon and Israel.
The incident occurred in a
village a few m iles from the Israeli
border. T he security o fficial said
that the drones left L ebanese
airspace after being fired on and
that none of them was shot down.
In a statement, the Israeli
military acknowledged a
confrontation but said no damage
was reported.
The incident came just days
after an alleged Israeli drone
crashed in a Hezbollah stronghold
in southern Beirut, l anding on the
militant group’s B eirut media
office, w hile another exploded in
midair and crashed nearby.


On Monday, Israeli drones
attacked a Palestinian b ase i n
eastern Lebanon, exacerbating
tensions.
The Lebanese army and
government have described t he
drone incidents and Monday’s
attack as blatant acts of
aggression and violations of
sovereignty and have asserted
Lebanon’s r ight to self-defense.
Israeli f orces along t he border
remain on high alert, raising fears
of a repeat of the 2006 war.
— Associated Press

YEMEN

Government forces
push into key port city

Forces loyal to Yemen’s
internationally recognized
government pushed Wednesday
into the key port city of Aden after
wresting control of another
southern provincial c apital from
separatists backed by the United
Arab Emirates, officials and
residents s aid.

Government troops also retook
the international airport in Aden,
a main hub for the southern part
of the country, Yemen’s
information minister s aid.
The rapid advance by
government forces u nderscored
the seesaw nature of the f ighting.
Only weeks b efore, the separatists
had gained much t erritory in
southern Yemen, pushing
government forces o ut of strategic
cities and areas.
The fighting has added another
layer to the complex civil war in
the Arab world’s most
impoverished country, a war
pitting a Saudi-led coalition
backing the government against
Houthi rebels c ontrolling the
north. The UAE is a key member
of the coalition.
Earlier in the day, g overnment
forces pushed the UAE-backed
separatist militias out of the c ity of
Zinjibar, the c apital of Abyan
province, after clashes that left a t
least one dead. T he separatists
had seized Zinjibar earlier t his
month.

The retreating separatists fled
to nearby Aden province, which
they had taken from the forces of
Saudi-backed President Abed
Rabbo Mansour Hadi earlier this
month, officials said.
Government forces then
continued their push to retake the
city of Aden, which h as functioned
as the seat of Hadi’s government
since t he Houthis captured S anaa,
Yemen’s c apital, and much of the
north in 2014.
— Associated Press

INDIA

Court to study change
in Kashmir’s status

India’s top court on Wednesday
took up legal challenges to the
government’s d ecision to revoke
Indian-controlled Kashmir’s
special status and asked officials
to explain their stance to the
court.
The Supreme Court ordered the
federal government to file its
replies to 14 p etitions and inform

the court about media restrictions
imposed in Kashmir. I t said five
judges will start a regular hearing
on the matter in October.
India’s government, led by the
Hindu-nationalist B haratiya
Janata Party, i mposed a security
lockdown and communications
blackout in Muslim-majority
Kashmir to forestall violence over
the Aug. 5 decision to downgrade
the region’s a utonomy. T he
restrictions have been eased
slowly.
On Wednesday, t he court
allowed an Indian opposition
leader to visit Kashmir to meet a
colleague who he said was under
detention, but it told him not use
the visit for political purposes.
Indian authorities have turned
back opposition leaders at t he
airport and not allowed them to
visit Srinagar — the main city in
Indian-controlled Kashmir — and
other parts of the region since the
clampdown on Aug. 5.
The revoked special status has
touched off anger in the region,
where administrators and local

police now work under federal
control and where residents fear
their culture and demographic
identity are under threat.
The Himalayan region of
Kashmir is also claimed by
Pakistan, India’s archrival, and is
divided between them.
— Associated Press

Ukrainian court frees Russian
journalist: A U krainian c ourt
released a Russian journalist o n
parole a fter more t han a year i n
ja il, an apparent s ignal that a
much-anticipated prisoner
exchange with Russia i s getting
on track. Kirill Vyshinsky, t he
Kiev bureau c hief for the Russian
state RIA-Novosti news agency,
was a rrested on treason charges
in May 2018. The journalist, who
has U krainian c itizenship, has
rejected t he charges, saying h e
was o nly doing his j ob. A prisoner
swap with Russia has been
discussed s ince former c omedian
Volodymyr Z elensky w on the
Ukrainian presidency in A pril.
— F rom news services

DIGEST


BY JAMES MCAULEY


AND HAZEM BALOUSHA


gaza city — The sea was once
Gaza’s only escape, the one place
in this tiny enclave where resi-
dents could depart from their
entrapped lives, if only for an
hour.
But now a ceaseless conflict
that seems to impinge on nearly
every aspect of life here has
claimed the Mediterranean, too.
Because of skyrocketing levels of
water pollution, attributable to
political and economic turmoil,
the 25-mile coastline is now an-
other barrier in a place where
barriers are all too common.
People still come to watch the
waves. They still stop to savor the
salty breeze. But these days, many
stop short of swimming. Even in
the heat of summer, to swim is
now to tempt fate.
“This is the only place to ex-
hale, in Gaza,” said Rawya Thal-
enty, 3 7, a mother of six, sitting on
the beach with a friend on a
recent evening and gesturing at
the water. “There are no options
here in Gaza. This is truly the only
place we can go.”
More than a decade into a strict
land, sea and air blockade im-
posed by Israel and Egypt to exert
pressure on Hamas, the Islamist
militant group that has con-
trolled Gaza since 2007, the en-
clave is in the midst of a water
crisis born of the region’s com-
bustible politics.
The three wars Hamas has
waged with Israel since 2009
have devastated the Gaza Strip’s
already weak sanitation system.
On top of that, Gaza’s sewage
treatment plants sit idle many
hours a day without the electrici-
ty to power them. That’s because
the Palestinian Authority, based
in the West Bank, has sought to
undermine popular support for
its rival Hamas by halting pay-
ments to Israel for the fuel used to
generate electricity in Gaza.
Israel has played power poli-
tics as well. Earlier this week,
following an uptick in rockets
fired into Israel from Gaza over
the weekend, Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the
limited amount of diesel fuel Isra-
el ships for electricity generation
to be cut in half.
Some studies have estimated
that as a result of inadequate
treatment, up to 108,000 cubic
meters of untreated sewage is
now discarded directly into the
sea every day, and reserves of
potable water have significantly
diminished. A public health
emergency now looms for the
nearly 2 million Palestinians who
live in the Gaza Strip, many of
whom are refugees and the de-
scendants of refugees from the
1948 war that established Israel’s
independence.
According to the World Health
Organization, waterborne diseas-
es constitute about one-fourth of
all illnesses in the Gaza Strip. A
2018 study by the Rand Corp. was
likewise clear in its conclusion,
predicting an imminent spike in
bacterial, parasitic and viral in-
fections such as cholera, giardia
and viral meningitis, respectively.
“We’re just sitting,” said Jabar
Shamalakh, 21, sprawled on a
plastic chair at the beach on a
recent afternoon, at the center of
a circle of his friends. He said it
had been five years since he had
been in the water. For his friend
Loay Hamouda, 23, it was three
years. For Ahmad Arafat, 21, a
year and a half.
“It’s deeply frustrating,” Arafat
said. “I miss the sea. I used to surf
sometimes. But now I can’t.” Sha-
malakh paused for a moment
when asked what he missed most
about feeling the water on his
skin.


“Joy,” he said. “When it’s clear,
we feel the joy.”
The sheer amount of sewage
washing into the sea has had
consequences for the wider re-
gion — including for Israel, where
the nearby coastal city of Ashkel-
on has experienced the effects of
Gaza’s sanitation breakdown. A
study published in March by
EcoPeace Middle East demon-
strated that sewage from Gaza
had washed up on nearby beach-
es, as well as interfered with the
operations of Ashkelon’s desali-

nation plant.
Earlier this year, Israel pledged
to build both a fourth water pipe-
line into Gaza as well as a new
sewage pipeline to treat some of
Gaza’s waste on the Israeli side of
the border. The Persian Gulf
country of Qatar, meanwhile, has
tried to address the electricity
shortage in Gaza but has not
supplied enough money to pay for
the estimated 400 to 600 mega-
watts the enclave needs every day.
Engineers in Gaza argue that
Israel’s blockade has made ad-

equate sewage treatment almost
impossible.
Housam Badawi, an electro-
chemical engineer, is overseeing
the construction of a new central
Gaza waste-management plant, a
project that was initially slated
for completion in 2005.
The reason for the delay,
Badawi said, is that Israeli au-
thorities have classified certain
items and materials required for
completion as “dual use,” mean-
ing they could also be used to
build weapons.

The new facility is funded by
KfW, a German development
bank, which will continue to pay a
fraction of operating costs upon
completion. Thomas Gaier, a Ger-
man project manager on the site,
said the work is now being ham-
strung because of a dispute over
measuring instruments, which he
said Israeli authorities have held
up for more than three months.
COGAT, the organization with-
in the Israeli Defense Ministry
that coordinates Israel’s a ctivities
in Palestinian territories, con-
firmed in a statement that the
measuring devices were classified
as “advanced dual use technologi-
cal equipment.” But COGAT also
said that KfW had been granted a
permit for this equipment but
had failed to procure the devices
within the required 30-day
window after the permit was is-
sued.
The delays on the new facility,
slated to process 60,000 cubic
meters of sewage, have contribut-
ed to the unabated flow of sewage
into the sea, with three other
plants able to treat only about
85,000 cubic meters of the daily
waste.
Most G azans seem aware of the
pollution flowing into the Medi-
terranean, but many cannot bring
themselves to abandon the beach.
“The beach is the only source of
life for Gazans — especially when
the electricity is out in their
homes,” said Abulraheem Abu
Qumbuz, director of the Gaza
municipality’s water sanitation
department. “We consider it as a
lifeline in the summer particular-
ly.”
In some areas, the putrid
stench is inescapable. And if the
crowds still come in the heat of

summer, they mostly just sit and
watch. Young children do still
frolic in the water, but only be-
cause their parents say they have
neither the resolve nor the heart
to stop them, regardless of sanita-
tion worries.
“I’m concerned about it, but I
can’t prevent the kids, because
they see others swimming and
they just start crying,” said Alaa
Louh, 30, who was sitting on the
sand, watching her two young
sons and daughter splash in the
waves.
In an enclave where the aver-
age monthly salary is roughly
$420 a month and 63 percent of
residents live below the global
poverty line of $2 per day, the
beach is free.
Middle-class and well-to-do
Gazans tend to do their swim-
ming at private pools, which they
can access with a day pass at one
of the strip’s few hotels. Or they
may opt for more privacy and rent
coveted chalets that come with
pools, compounds that can cost
between $100 and $200 per day.
For most, that is out of the ques-
tion.
“If I could afford to go to a
swimming pool — or a chalet — I
wouldn’t hesitate. But I can’t,”
said Mohammad To ta, 19, who
was swimming for the first time
this year in what he said was a
celebration for moving on to his
university studies.
For him, the liberating sensa-
tion of being in the water was
worth any price. “Playing in the
water and feeling the waves re-
leases the stress and lets you
forget your problems,” Tota said.
“It reminds me of my childhood
and better times.”
james.mcauley@washpost.com

In Gaza, conflict taints a summertime respite


Years of strife with Israel have left the Palestinian territory facing a water crisis, with untreated waste soiling its beloved beaches


PHOTOS BY LOAY AYYOUB FOR THE WASHINGTON POST
A man rides a horse along the Mediterranean shore in the Gaza Strip, where many have stopped swimming in the sea because of pollution from untreated sewage.

A cascade of wastewater pours into the Mediterranean Sea from Gaza. Conflict and an Israeli
blockade that has lasted more than a decade have left the territory’s sanitation system crippled.
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