Israeli border police demolished a rainwater cistern and removed irrigation pipes from several Palestinian fields in Al Beqa’a Valley just east of Hebron on July 14, 2010, the second day of incidents in the area this month.
When international peace activists from Christian Peacemaker Teams arrived in the area at 9:30am, the large bagger that had been used to break up the concrete of the cistern was just leaving the site. The driver of a large tractor lifted scoops full of rocks and dumped them into the demolished cistern. Also, workers cut and disposed of irrigation pipes laid in two fields. The fields each measured 10 dunams (approximately 40 acres). One was a field of grape vines and the other field had tomatoes planted under grape vines. In addition to dismantling the irrigation pipes, the workers also cut the twines that were holding up tomato plants. At least seven families will be affected by this destruction, in total about 50 people.
A Palestinian friend of CPT who lives in Al Beqa’a Valley explained the difficulties residents have in accessing water. A water line has been install by the Palestinian Authority from a nearby village; however, there is no water in the line. There is a large aquiver of water in the Hebron region, and Mekorot, the Israeli water company, has a well along the Israeli bypass road Route 60 in Al Beqa’a Valley which draws from this aquiver (in Area C, which is under full Israeli military control). Palestinian residents in Al Beqa’a Valley had made arrangements to purchase water from Mekorot. However, they never received as much water as they paid for. With the demolition of several rainwater cisterns in the valley in the past year, the Palestinian residents felt that they had no other option but to tap into the Mekorot water line at the well site.
Palestinians alleged that some of the Israelis that were with the border police and DCO on July 14th were from the Mekorot Company. Rather than preventing Palestinians from taping into the well at the source, the Israeli authorities destroyed the irrigation pipes in the fields of several families. Each 200m roll of irrigation drip pipe costs about 370NIS (~100$US), and the connection piping costs about 2.5NIS for each inch. For each dunam of vegetables it takes about 2-3 days to put the irrigation drip piping in place. The cost of the materials and time that goes into growing produce is high. Rather than prevent the ‘theft’ of water (which is ironically from an aquiver under Palestine) earlier in the season, the Israeli authorities instead waited until crops were almost ready for market. Therefore this destruction is not meant to stop the ‘theft’ of water but to cause the highest impact on farmers in the region.