If the Palestinians go ahead with building a sewage pipe from the Gaza Strip to the sea, this could cripple the new desalination plant near Ashekelon.

The plant, planned to desalinate 100 million cubic meters of water annually, is due to be inaugurated at the end of the month.

A Water Commission report warns that “if the Ashkelon desalination plant is crippled due to the sewage flowing from the Gaza Strip into the sea, the outcome would be intolerable for Israel’s water sector. Any attempt to lay a pipeline to drain sewage into the sea must be physically stopped.” The report says that in addition to the damage caused by putting the plant out of business, the sewage would pollute Israel’s beaches.

Palestinian water commissioner Fadel Kawash said he was aware of Israel’s concern. However, he noted that all the Israeli settlements in the West Bank channel all their sewage – some 15 million cubic meters a year – into open areas.

A 4,000-square meter sewage pond is sitting near Wadi Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip, and sewage water already flows from there into Israel. There is only one sewage pipe from Gaza City into the sea, near Sheikh Ajlin.

Five donor states, including the United States and the European Union, were ready to assist with sewage removal projects in the Gaza Strip. However, they all stopped working on these plans during the conflict years, and only the Swedes have recently returned to the region.

Sources in the Water Commission say that one way to pressure the Palestinians to avoid laying the sewage pipe is by means of the donor states.