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Israel’s pioneering use of water ‘to the last drop’

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Israel's pioneering use of water 'to the last drop'

In the scorching summer heat, an Israeli farmer tends to a dripline taking a mix of ground and recycled water to palm trees – an approach honed for decades in the arid country and now drawing wide interest abroad.

At the plantation in a desert near Eilat, a coastal holiday resort on Israel’s southern tip, the mineral-rich water passes through a plastic tube, nourishing the dates high above.

“All of Eilat’s sewage is treated,” said Arik Ashkenazi, chief engineer of Ein Netafim, Eilat’s water and sewage utility, during a tour of the facility that sees wastewater cleared of solids and biological hazards.

“The treated wastewater is transferred, to the last drop, to farmers” who mix it with groundwater and use it on the trees, he said.

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Eliat is hemmed in between the desert and Red Sea, isolated from the rest of Israel with no natural freshwater. Its drinking water is a combination of desalinated groundwater and seawater.

After domestic use turns it into sewage, it is treated and then allocated to farmers, enabling the parched region to support agriculture.

While Eilat used to be the exception in Israel’s water management, it is now more of a prototype for the country and perhaps the world.

Globally, more than two billion people lack access to safe drinking water, the United Nations says, with floods and droughts triggered by climate change further exacerbating the situation.

Alarming data presented by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs shows “80 percent of wastewater in the world flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused”.

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Israel began recycling wastewater when it saw that its water sources — groundwater and water from the northern Sea of Galilee — were insufficient to meet the needs of a growing population.

“We began to realise that sewage was a water source, reaching almost 100 percent reuse in Israel,” said Yossi Yaacoby, vice president of engineering for Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, noting that 90 percent of the treated wastewater went to agriculture.

“That wasn’t enough either, so we began desalinating seawater,” he said, beginning with Eilat in 1997 and then the Mediterranean, with desalinated water now providing 60-80 percent of Israel’s drinking water.

Israel has had sole access to the Sea of Galillee, a freshwater lake, since seizing the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

In the 1960s, Israel’s construction of its so-called national carrier — the pipeline transferring water from the Sea of Galilee to drier and more populated parts of the country — caused tensions and even exchanges of fire with Syria.

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“Water was a source of conflict,” Yaacoby said.

Nowadays, “Israel understands that water is a foundation for peace”, he added, with Israel selling it to some of its neighbours.

“We supply the Jordanians 100 million (cubic metres) from the Sea of Galilee, and a similar quantity to the Palestinians — mainly in the West Bank with a small amount to Gaza, and it will increase,” Yaacoby said.

With rising climate instability, growing populations and dwindling resources, it’s not only Middle Eastern countries that Israel is helping to tackle their water problems.

“The world is undergoing a huge crisis,” Yaacoby said, noting that “states you’d never imagine” like France, Germany and Italy were rethinking the issue.

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“Israel understood from its inception that water is a scarce resource,” he said, and by now “has a large reservoir of knowledge accumulated over the years pertaining to regulatory matters, managing water sources”, he said.

In addition, Israel is “constantly developing technologies” in the field of water, Yaacoby said.

Clive Lipchin, an expert on water management at the Arava Institute in southern Israel, said the rising unpredictability due to climate change should make “everybody around the world” consider desalination and treating wastewater.

But beyond the technologies being expensive and high on energy consumption, a comprehensive solution would demand people changing their attitude on the use of water.

“It’s a basic right, but it cannot be a free good. People have to pay,” Lipchin said.

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“Most people around the world do not pay. So that’s a huge barrier” and a challenge to governments whose citizens have been paying nothing for decades, he said.

Yaacoby too said that the main challenge for the future of water use was not in the realm of engineering, but rather the mindset of people who were in no rush to preserve water they received for free.

Such a change required “courageous political decisions”, he said.

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UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation

UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation

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UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation

 The UN’s top court will next week hand down its view on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967, a case in which some 52 countries made submissions.

Any opinion delivered by the International Court of Justice would be non-binding, but it will come amid mounting international legal pressure on Israel over the war in Gaza sparked by the brutal Oct 7 Hamas attacks.

“A public sitting will take place at the Peace Palace in The Hague (on Jul 19) … during which Judge Nawaf Salam … will read out the Advisory Opinion,” the ICJ said on Friday (Jul 12).

The ICJ held a week-long session in February to hear submissions from countries following a request from the United Nations late last year.

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The UN has asked the ICJ to hand down an “advisory opinion” on the “legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”.

Most speakers during the hearings have demanded that Israel end its occupation, which came after a six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967.

But the United States said Israel should not be legally obliged to withdraw without taking its “very real security needs” into account.

Speakers also warned a prolonged occupation posed an “extreme danger” to stability in the Middle East and beyond.

Israel did not take part in the oral hearings.

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It submitted a written contribution, in which it described the questions the court had been asked as “prejudicial” and “tendentious”.

The case before the court is separate from one brought by South Africa against Israel for alleged genocide during its current offensive in Gaza.

South Africa has gone to the ICJ several times arguing that the dire humanitarian situation means the court should issue further fresh emergency measures.

In an initial ruling on January 26, the ICJ ordered Israel to do everything it could to prevent acts of genocide during its military operation in Gaza.

It also called for the unconditional release of hostages taken by Palestinian militant group Hamas during its Oct 7 assault that sparked the war.

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Residents say bodies lie in streets in once-vibrant Gaza neighbourhood

Residents say bodies lie in streets in once-vibrant Gaza neighbourhood

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Residents say bodies lie in streets in once-vibrant Gaza neighbourhood

 Al-Rimal was once one of Gaza City’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, but the end of another Israeli assault left residents stumbling through the rubble on Friday looking for bodies and belongings.

Residents of Al-Rimal, which before the war was home to Palestinian government buildings and most of Gaza City’s remaining shops and restaurants, said bodies had been left lying in the streets.

The Hamas-run territory’s civil defence agency said scores of dead had also been found in nearby districts after Israeli troops ended a new operation against militants in parts of Gaza City.

Al-Rimal has been flattened by successive Israeli military operations since the Hamas attacks across the border started the Gaza war on October 7.

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The neighbourhood had already suffered in previous showdowns with Israel since Hamas seized sole control of the territory in 2007. Several apartment blocks were hit by Israeli fighter jets in 2021.

Teacher Tariq Ghanem said this time Israeli troops had wreaked “massive destruction” on Al-Rimal.

“The houses are on fire and there are shells everywhere,” the 57-year-old said.

“There have been bodies on the roads for the past week and… there is no one to retrieve them. There are injured people everywhere and no one can reach them.”

‘DANGEROUS COMBAT ZONE’

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The Israeli military ordered the evacuation of Al-Rimal, Tal al-Hawa and other districts of Gaza City on Monday and has since warned that the whole city is a “dangerous combat zone”.

One major target of the assault was the abandoned headquarters of the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) in Al-Sinaa district that the army said had been taken over by Hamas.

A military statement said troops had found “parts for assembling an unmanned aerial vehicle, war rooms used for surveillance operations and large quantities of weapons, including tactical drones, rockets, machine guns, mortars, explosives and grenades.”

But residents said buildings across the city suffered heavy damage in the assault.

“There are many appeals for help, but we just cannot reach them,” said civil defence agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal.

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He said dozens of bodies were “scattered in alleys and inside destroyed houses” but his agency did not have the staff to recover them.

AFP correspondents saw heavy destruction across the city with several blocks barely standing.

Residents used donkey carts to ferry the wounded to hospital or to recover what belongings they could from the rubble.

Bassal said about 60 bodies had been found in the Tal al-Hawa and Al-Sinaa districts on Friday. The agency and residents said Israeli troops had pulled out but this was not immediately confirmed by the military.

On Thursday, the civil defence agency said 60 bodies had been found in another neighbourhood of Gaza City, Shujaiya, after Israeli troops pulled out, ending a two-week assault.

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The army said more than 150 “terrorists were eliminated” in its operation in Shujaiya, including Hamas commanders.

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Dozens of bodies reported as battles rock Gaza city

Dozens of bodies reported as battles rock Gaza city

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Dozens of bodies reported as battles rock Gaza cityv

Hamas-run Gaza’s civil defence agency said it found around 60 bodies after Israeli troops withdrew from parts of Gaza City on Friday, as heavy fighting gripped the Palestinian territory.

The grisly discovery came as international mediators pushed on with efforts to halt the war now raging into its 10th month.

US President Joe Biden said at a NATO summit in Washington on Thursday that despite problems, US diplomats and other mediators were making “progress” towards a ceasefire and stressed that “it’s time to end this war”.

The bodies were found in the Tal al-Hawa and Al-Sinaa districts, the civil defence agency said. Israeli forces had moved into the neighbourhoods this week after ordering civilians to evacuate on Monday.

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“There are still missing people under the rubble of destroyed homes, which is difficult for our crews to reach,” agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal said.

Residents and the agency said Israeli troops had pulled out after days of fighting with Hamas militants. This was not immediately confirmed by Israel.

‘TRAPPED’

Gaza’s health ministry had earlier reported 32 deaths in the territory, saying that the “martyrs, a majority of them children and women, were taken to hospitals overnight, because of continued massacres”.

Media linked to the territory’s Hamas rulers, whose October 7 attack sparked the war, said that Israeli forces had launched more than 70 new air strikes.

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Israel’s military said it was also fighting in the Rafah area of the south, where its troops had “eliminated numerous terrorists in close-quarters combat and aerial strikes”.

But the main battleground in recent days has been Gaza City, where two weeks of fighting devastated the eastern district of Shujaiya.

The Israeli army dropped thousands of leaflets on Wednesday urging all Gaza City residents to flee what it called a “dangerous combat zone” — an area where the United Nations said up to 350,000 people were staying.

One of those newly displaced, Umm Ihab Arafat, sat with her children on a sand pile amid the rubble as the incessant hum of Israeli drones filled the sky.

“I have been displaced four times,” she said, pleading for a break for her and her children. “They are entitled to rest, their eyes are full of horror and fear.”

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The International Committee of the Red Cross said “entire families are trapped and desperately seek security. The huge needs are beyond our capacity to respond”.

The ICRC said Gaza City residents had been instructed to move south “to areas that are overcrowded, lacking in essential services and are experiencing hostilities”.

TRUCE TALKS

Israel and Hamas have engaged in months of indirect talks via Qatari, US and Egyptian mediators to reach a still elusive truce and hostage release deal.

At the latest meeting in Doha on Wednesday, Israeli officials discussed the conditions for a ceasefire with US and Qatari mediators.

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The head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency Ronen Bar was headed for talks in Cairo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.

Netanyahu again insisted that any deal must allow Israel to meet all its war aims — destroying Hamas as well as bringing home all the hostages.

He also said Israel needs to maintain control of Gaza’s southern border with Egypt to prevent weapons being “smuggled to Hamas”.

Biden has laid out what he called an Israeli plan which would see a six-week truce in which hostages held in Gaza would be freed in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons. A second phase would see talks on a full end to the war.

Biden acknowledged on Thursday that “difficult, complex issues” remain but insisted that “we’re making progress”.

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“The trend is positive,” he said, “and I’m determined to get this deal done and bring an end to this war, which should end now.”

Biden also stood firm on his decision to hold up delivery of massive 2,000-pound (900kg) bombs over concerns they could be used in populated areas, even as his administration moved forward on sending Israel less powerful 500-pound munitions.

He again pressed Israel for a “day-after” plan for Gaza and spoke of his diplomacy to persuade Arab states to help with security.

Hamas has proposed an independent and non-partisan government for both post-war Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said Hossam Badran, a member of the group’s political bureau.

END OF TROUBLED AID PIER

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The war started with Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 42 the military says are dead.

Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,345 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The World Health Organization said that only five trucks carrying medical supplies were allowed into Gaza last week, while over 70 more are waiting at the border.

Meanwhile, a problem-plagued US effort to get aid in by sea will soon end permanently, the US military said.

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US troops built the $230-million pier but the temporary facility has been repeatedly put out of use by high seas.

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