Sewage goes untreated in Gaza

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The Independent Online

Thirty thousand cubic metres of untreated sewage from the Gaza Strip was dumped into the Mediterranean as a direct result of the four-day total embargo on fuel and humanitarian supplies, Palestinian water executives said yesterday.

Israel has allowed some fuel and medicine to enter Gaza, including 700,000 litres of industrial fuel to allow the Strip's only power station to start resupplying Gaza City with electricity.

Monther Shoblak, the senior water engineer, said he had been forced to transfer fuel from three waste-treatment plants on Monday to restart a more central main pumping station, which had stopped functioning for lack of generator fuel, spewing raw sewage into the streets of the populous Zeitoun district.

Mr Shoblak said he had to protect the people from the threat of waterborne disease and added: "This is my sea. It is a nightmare to pollute the sea. But there was no choice."

He said the Beach refugee camp treatment plant could process about 40,000 cubic metres of waste a day, so a further 10,000 cubic metres frequently has to be dumped untreated into the sea. About 40 per cent of consumers were without mains drinking water by Monday, he added.

At the Rafah crossing on Gaza's southern border, 10 Egyptian police and 60 protesters were hurt during a demonstration by Palestinians against Egypt's tacit support of the closure. Hundreds of protesters broke through the crossing, some hurling stones as Palestinian gunmen fired in the air. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said the one-off admission of supplies was "putting Palestinians on an IV drip".

But Amos Gilead, the head of the Israeli Defence Ministry's political military bureau, said Israel had acted because it did not want to pursue the "one clear option" of invading Gaza. He added: "Our only goal is to normalise life for our people and to protect them from attack." The Israeli military said 17 Qassam rockets had been fired at Israel yesterday.

On Monday, there was a flurry of phone calls by Tony Blair, as Middle East envoy, to Karen Koning AbuZayd, the head of the UN refugee agency UNRWA, the Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak and Condoleezza Rice.

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