The residents of Israeli communities bordering Gaza, who for years have been dealing with Hamas rocket attacks and most recently incendiary airborne devices scorching their land, have found themselves battling another hazardous nuisance. Polluted sewage is being pumped from Gaza into the Israeli side of the border after a collapse of the local wastewater treatment plant, making the lives of the local residents a living nightmare.
Due to the dire economic situation in Gaza, the wastewater plant cannot undergo the needed treatments, prompting Palestinians living in the northern neighborhoods of the Strip—Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia—to drain sewage into Nahal Hanun, which crosses Israel and empties into the sea, polluting the groundwater in the process.
In order to stop wastewater flow and reduce the environmental damage, the Water Authority has recently set up a pumping station near the Erez border crossing, which effectively made Israel responsible for water purification of the northern Gaza Strip. Before the Israeli intervention, the moshavim and kibbutzim near the border—Netiv HaAsara, Erez, Yad Mordechai, and Zikim—suffered from a continuous onslaught of mosquitoes and flies.
"The dangerous thing is that the Palestinians in Gaza pump water from water wells in an uncontrolled manner, polluting the groundwater we use," said David Rosenberg, director of infrastructure and water in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. "They do not have the knowledge and the tools to pump groundwater … and any drilling only results in salinity of the water. The environmental damage that’s being done is tremendous.”
As well as that, massive piles of trash have accumulated in the area bordering the Eshkol Regional Council after three giant landfills were set up along the border fence, leaving the locals to cope with a putrid and toxic smell being carried by the wind across the border.
The landfills are derelict as dry and wet waste gets mixed up and subsequently burned, increasing the environmental impact. Insects and rodents that breed in the landfills then also make their way across the border, infesting the Israeli communities. In addition, disease-ridden cats and dogs that feed off the landfill constantly breach the fence, engendering the local residents.
"It's a daily war, and even though it may sound as something insignificant, swarms of mosquitoes invading from Gaza could result in a disaster for Israel," said a source in the Water Authority.
A source from one of the local authorities along the Gaza border called the current environmental situation “hopeless.”
"The environment is the last thing that the residents of Gaza are concerned with. Their solutions are temporary and usually do more harm than good. The government is aware of the situation, but hasn’t done anything.”