Israeli army contaminating water sources

TEL AVIV (IRIN) - Israeli army bases in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Israel are contaminating land and water sources, says a letter addressed to Major General Gadi Shamni, commander-in-chief of the central command in Israel.

According to the 12 May letter signed by Issac Ben David, deputy director at the Ministry of the Environment, and seen by IRIN, five bases in the OPT are a major source of contamination due to poor handling of diesel fuel and oil.

The bases in question are Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem; Ramallah (West Bank); another is near Hebron (West Bank); and two are Israeli army fuel stations near Macabim and Halamish.

Ben David’s letter said: “In a recent inspection conducted by the ministry inspectors of [Israeli army] bases in [the OPT] we discovered a bleak picture of neglect and severe damage to the environment due to leakage of fuel and oil. This severely damages the soil and ground water.”

“Our inspectors found that this is not due to lack of infrastructure but to criminal neglect on the part of the persons in charge,” it went on.

Ben David ended the letter by saying this was only one example of environmental damage caused by army bases, and told Major General Shamni that he would forward a full report with photographs of the affected areas. He urged Shamni to rectify the situation.

Ben David also reported grave contamination in two other bases in Israel — one in Ovda in the Negev desert, and the other in Julis near the city of Ashkelon.

The Israeli army’s spokesperson’s unit has responded: “The [Israeli army] is aware of the importance of environmental issues and makes efforts to treat the existing hazards.”

Representatives of the Ministry of the Environment appeared before the national committee on the water situation in Israel on 21 January and said the army was a major contaminator of soil and ground water. They explained that the nature and wide scope of army activities constituted a major contamination threat to every aspect of the environment. According to environmentalists, the army sewage infrastructure, or lack of it, accounts for 50 percent of untreated sewage in the country.

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