By Joe Skillet
On Saturday, July 15, 2006, human rights workers in Tel Rumeida, Hebron, discovered that Israeli soldiers had been using the Human Rights Workers’ (HRWs) four water tanks as waste bins. Though it is unsure how long the soldiers have been doing this, what is sure is that the garbage found is of IOF origin.
It is shocking what the HRWs found inside their tanks. Because there are numerous flats in the building, the land-owner was called to point out exactly which water tanks belonged to the HRWs’ apartment. Most of the roof and many of the tanks are covered with Israeli military netting, due to the fact that the roof was at one point labeled a “closed military zone”. The soldiers still regularly ascend the stairs to the roof and there are currently two military cameras recording the area mounted on the building. Some of the netting had to be cut in order to reach the four tanks belonging to the HRWs apartment.
One of the tanks was badly damaged, with a large hole in the side and half of the top unattached from the body of the tank, making the tank irreparable. Three of the tanks are easily accessible. Inside these three tanks is where the HRWs found an abundant amount of trash, intentionally placed there by the Israeli soldiers. Some of the trash includes: forks, spoons, knives, army netting, unexploded bullets, paper, plastic, glass, bricks, broken pipes, pudding containers, an extremely outdated, unopened yogurt package, and plastic trays on which soldiers’ meals are served.
Swimming in all of the tanks were what looked like thousands of little, grayish, transparent organisms. These organisms were the first clue that there was something wrong with the water supply. Recently, some of the HRWs had noticed these tiny wormlike creatures coming through the kitchen faucet.
The HRWs currently have no clean water supply to the apartment because of the bacterial – and potentially harmful – consequences of using or ingesting it. Palestinian friends and neighbors have agreed to let the HRWs fill water bottles and buckets from their own water tanks and faucets, and to use their showering facilities. Most of the water has been emptied from the tanks, but many of the organisms still remain. The tanks must be thoroughly disinfected before they can be used again.
There is a large concern that the soldiers will again contaminate the HRWs’ water supply. Currently, there are no locks for the lids of the tanks. The idea of trashing Palestinian water tanks is apparently not new. One Palestinian told the HRWs that the soldiers have contaminated his family’s water supply with their garbage many times. So, he checks his water tanks everyday. There have been other reports of soldiers urinating in water tanks.
There is a consensus among the housemates to get new water tanks with locks, or to at least replace the damaged tank. In the meantime, the HRWs will continue to borrow water from their friends, and hope that any illness from drinking the contaminated water has been prevented.