TPP. 25 February 2015
(Please note the following correction we published Feb 26)
Israel on Monday rejected allegations by the government in the Gaza Strip that authorities had released storm-water into the coastal enclave. In a statement, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said Israel did not operate dams in the south, contrary to claims that it had opened them deliberately to alleviate flooding. “The claim is entirely false, and southern Israel does not have any dams,” the COGAT statement said. “Due to the recent rain, streams were flooded throughout the region with no connection to actions taken by the State of Israel.”
Israel does not have any dams, so they said. Except for the Degania Dam, located on the Jordan River at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. Israel also has instead a “system of reservoirs”. According to wikipedia, reservoir (etymology: from French réservoir a “storehouse” ) is a natural or artificial lake, storage pond, or impoundment from a dam which is used to store water.
The photo below is of the Nir Am Reservoir that lies near the town of Sderot, in southern Israel. This view of the reservoir shows the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun in the background.
Be it an impoundment of water as a result of a dam, or artificially created pond; the result is the same- a large lake of water that can flood or be flooded.
Below is an article published in January 2014 exploring the myth of “no dams” and the system of Reservoirs that exist in Israel.
A System of Reservoirs and the Israeli National Water Carrier
By Richard Edmondson. January 5, 2014
As it turns out, however, there are other dams in Israel, including in the Negev. The desert region also has reservoirs. A click here will take you to a location on Google Maps showing you the town of Sderot in southern Israel. Directly to the west of the town lies the Kibbutz Nir Am, and due west of the kibbutz you will see the Nir Am Reservoir. It sits on a point overlooking Gaza. Move the map to the south and west and you will see four additional reservoirs, all lying along Israel’s border with Gaza. With a capacity of 1.5 million cubic liters of water, the Nir Am is the largest of these five reservoirs, but all are connected. The image below shows what is known as the National Water Carrier of Israel. It is a system of giant pipes, canals, tunnels and pumping stations, by means of which water is pumped from the Sea of Galilee in the northern part of the country, down to the coastal areas surrounding Tel Aviv, and finally to the Negev Desert in the south. The system is operated by Mekorot, Israel’s national water company.
You’ll note that the blue lines represent fresh water, while the red line leading down around Gaza and into the Negev contains treated sewage. The water in this line is used for agricultural purposes.
The National Water Carrier began pumping water in 1964. Here is what the system looked like as it was being constructed.
Also perhaps of interest, especially to those who claim there are “no dams in the Negev,” is the system of limans — small, manmade bodies of water throughout the desert that were created for irrigation and also as a means of combatting soil erosion and desertification. Limans catch runoff from wadis when they occasionally flood. Each liman has a small dam. According to the Jewish National Fund, there are approximately 420 limans in the Negev. Below is a photo of one:
But limans, as you can see, are rather small. Likewise the dams, referred to as “check-dams,” that are built into them. They’re also scattered out over a wide area, and the chance they may have been a factor in the flooding of Gaza is remote. But also at the Jewish National Fund website is a proud history of the work it has done in developing various parts of Israel, including the Negev, and including apparently dams. In the following passage, the letters “JNF-KKL” are the English and Hebrew acronyms for the organization spliced together. It is how the Jewish National Fund refers to itself in this article. Here is an excerpt:
JNF-KKL spread out to the south, to the edge of the Arava. Some 25 percent of all tree plantings in the 1980’s were carried out in the Negev, bringing its forest area to a total of 45,000 acres. Army camps that had been set up in the Negev after the evacuation of the Sinai were planted with JNF-KKL trees to create shelter from the burning sun, shield soldiers and equipment from dust storms, and provide some respite for those soldiers stationed in the harsh desert.
JNF-KKL began to focus a large part of its attention on the burgeoning water crisis during this period. Towards the end of the 1980’s, JNF-KKL carried out a number of large-scale water conservation projects, building dams and reservoirs. These vital projects allowed JNF-KKL to capture rainwater run-off when the infrequent rains did fall, water which would have otherwise been lost to the sea. Reservoirs were built in the Arava Valley, at Reshafim in the Beit She’arim Valley, and at Kedma near Kiryat Gat. An artificial lake was built in Timna Park in the southern Negev.
Additional references to dams in the Negev — and particularly adjacent to Gaza — can also be found in a book entitled Water and Peace in the Middle East, edited by J. Isaac and H. Shuval and published in 1994 (hat tip to “Lana”, commenter number 25 ). Here is an excerpt :
Wadi Gaza which flows during the winter season, originating from the Hebron mountains in the east and ends at the sea shore south of Gaza, has been blocked by Israel. Several dams were built along the way preventing the water from flowing into the Gaza Strip which otherwise would have provided a valuable source of water to be used for irrigation and for compensation for the lost pumped out water. There are no known figures of the amount of water this wadi brings, but it would have been a great help to the irrigation in the middle zone of Gaza.
Note, of course, the words “the middle zone of Gaza.” Recall also that both Press TV reports, from 2010 and 2012, described the flooding as occurring in the central area of Gaza. Hearken back also to the announcement by Shanti this past December 13, as reported by Ma’an:
He warned that residential areas within the Gaza Valley would be flooding within the coming hours.
Flooding in central Gaza, and the opening of dams there, is also mentioned in this report, posted December 15, from the Palestine Information Center:
GAZA, (PIC)– Hundreds of houses in central Gaza Strip were flooded as the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Saturday afternoon opened the earth dams east of the town of Wadi Salaqa in Deir al-Balah.
The IOF established many earth dams east of the Gaza Strip to collect rainwater to use it; however in case the levels of water increase they open these dams and water flows to Gaza.
Palestinian sources told Quds Press that the rescue teams and civil defense have evacuated 40 families including 200 people from the town of Wadi Salaqa and brought them to a shelter center.
The sources added that 300 families have been moved to the shelter center of Hussein School run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees “UNRWA” in Jabalya north of the Gaza Strip.
The Municipality of Gaza appealed to the residents living in low-lying areas in the Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes before the evening for fear their houses will be flooded with rainwater.
The town of Deir al-Balah, cited in the lead paragraph above, is mentioned in a lot of other reports on the Gaza flooding as well.
The area seems to have been especially hard hit. If you look at it on Google Maps you will see that it is pretty much smack dab in the middle of Gaza. But just a few miles to the south and west of there lies the town of Khan Yunis, where a 21-year-old girl named Rana lives. Rana wrote the following report…and yes, she too mentions the dams:
My name is Rana. I have lived in the city of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip all 21 years of my life. What is happening in Gaza is not fiction but a bitter reality, which we lack the means to defend ourselves against. In the last few days, an unusually powerful storm has flooded many areas, displacing hundreds of residents from their homes. Children are without shelter from the cold and rain. Entire neighbourhoods are sinking.
My family and I spent four days in darkness in below freezing weather: no electricity, no water and no heat. I was so cold, I couldn‘t leave my bed and the small comfort it and my blankets provided. The cold felt like it penetrated my bones. Yet, I am lucky. I witnessed many people as they became homeless, their children desperate for food and warmth.
Friends called to tell me about the flooding and freezing in their areas. I felt bad, unable to help.
Power lines are down and our streets are filled with raw sewage. Greenhouses have been destroyed, affecting farmers and reducing the already minimal food supply we Gazans are forced to survive on.
Making conditions worse, Israel opened two dams, releasing a torrent of water that inundated many homes. As their houses sank, some of my neighbours nearly drowned. Fortunately, rescue workers came to their aid.
All of this was not enough for Israel. Its soldiers have been shooting at civilians in the village of Khuza’a, to the east of my city. Unarmed residents, women and children, attempting to flee the flooded town, were driven back for fear of being shot.
Israel’s action, assisted by the world’s silence, increases our suffering. Where is the international law we hear so many people talk about but never implement? Where is the community that talks about justice and humanitarian support? If my people are prevented from obtaining the basic requirements of life at least we should speak up and raise our voices.
Another storm is expected to hit my vulnerable homeland next week, bringing with it more suffering and more homelessness. When will the world wake up and treat us like human beings?
Rana Alshami, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip
If you once again go to Google Maps you will notice that Khan Yunis lies in fairly close proximity to two reservoirs. Of the five reservoirs Israel maintains along the Gaza border, these are the two southernmost. They are small, but if water somehow were diverted from them, the effect upon the people in the nearby Gazan villages would probably be not inconsiderable.
But of course, it isn’t only central Gaza that was inundated in the recent flood. In a story posted at Ma’an News on December 13, reporter Alex Shams reports particularly heavy flooding also in the northern Gaza Strip.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Gaza Strip was pounded by fierce winds and rain again on Friday as flooding reached dangerous levels in many areas, forcing thousands to flee their homes amid widespread power outages as temperatures plunged into the single digits.
The flooding was worst in the northern Gaza Strip, where hundreds fled their homes and water levels reached 40–50 cm in some parts, forcing residents to use boats to navigate their neighborhoods.
In the same article, Shams goes on to quote Chris Gunness, of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, who also notes heavy flooding in the north:
UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness told Ma’an, “In Gaza there is a significant problem with flooding in the north, specifically in Jabaliya, and UNRWA staff has been working all night,”
“An UNRWA staff member reported that there were three meters of water surrounding his house,” he added, pointing out that water had come up to the first floor in some areas.
Here’s Jabaliya on Google Maps. Move the map southeast by northeast and you will see the other three reservoirs. Note that all three lie in fairly close proximity to Jabaliya.
Let’s turn our attention once more to the northernmost of these — the Nir Am Reservoir.
The Nir Am Reservoir is pictured in the photo at the very top of this post. Look real closely at it. You are standing on the southeastern side of the reservoir, looking out across it, with the skyline of the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun showing in the background.
Below is the reservoir as it is shown on Google Maps, with Sderot to the east, Beit Hanoun to the west, and the reservoir lying in between.
And here is the Google Earth view, though from a slightly different perspective — with the side of the reservoir facing Beit Hanoun shown in the foreground.
You can also go here and see a series of 30 photos shot as the reservoir was under construction in 1996. Click on any image to enlarge the photos, and then enlarge themeven further by playing with the zoom controls that show up. The photos are under copyright of the Jewish National Fund and are in repository at the Widener Library at Harvard University.
Question: Was a means of diverting water from the Nir Am Reservoir into Gaza built into the system when it was constructed, or, alternately, has one been added since? And if the answer to that is yes, did someone, say perhaps from the nearby town of Sderot, feeling himself divinely chosen by God and aggrieved over the landing of the occasional rocket, slip out during the Alexa downpour to pull the switch, open the floodgate, and release the tide? It is probably impossible for us to know the answer to this, but very much worth keeping in mind is the National Water Carrier and its lines running parallel to Gaza’s border. Theoretically the release point, if such exists, would not necessarily have to have been to be at the Nir Am Reservoir. It could be anywhere along this line. Or, there could be more than one release point. Which might explain why especially heavy flooding was recorded in both northern and central Gaza.
Or — as I say — there may be no way of diverting any of this water, not so much as a single drop, into Gaza whatsoever…although my own personal hunch is this is unlikely.
But one thing is for certain. The hasbara crowd, ever convinced of Israel’s virtue and goodness, ever convinced also of the inviolability of their own “Jewish values,” are of the mind that a deliberate flooding of Gaza is unthinkable, and moreover seem convinced that only the vilest purveyors of “Jew hatred” could even contemplate such a thing.
“The Damn Dams Don’t Exist”
Most of us have encountered hasbara swarms on the Internet. You get to recognize them after a while. Such a swarm hit Ma’an News following publication of its initial report on the dams on December 13. A total of 77 comments were posted in response to that article. Given that it has been common knowledge for a while that Israel organizes and recruits teams of people to post comments favorable to the Jewish state on the Internet, it is not unreasonable to assume that at least some of those who descended upon Ma’an were being paid to do so. At any rate, the comments began lickety-split. The very first person to respond to the article, apparently only shortly after it was published, was “Abe.” “How far will Hamas go! Now they blame the weather on ISRAEL!!”