Satellite imagery from the commercial company Planet has revealed that Israeli forces have taken up positions near vital water infrastructure in the northern part of Gaza. The imagery shows Israeli armored vehicles at a seawater desalination plant on the north side of Gaza City, as well as a sewage treatment facility to the south.
These water facilities were occupied shortly after Israeli ground troops entered Gaza on October 27th. Based on the imagery, it appears that Israeli forces reached the desalination plant by October 30th, and the wastewater treatment plant south of Gaza City by November 1st.
Another sewage treatment plant located near Gaza’s border with Israel seems to have drained its basins shortly after the October 7th attack by Hamas, although there is no evidence to suggest that Israeli forces are operating near that facility.
The Israel Defense Forces have not provided any comments or information regarding these facilities. It is worth noting that simply occupying infrastructure like water and power facilities does not necessarily violate the laws of war.
Gaza has been dealing with long-standing water and sewage issues, with limited surface water and brackish wells. It relied on water piped in from Israel and three desalination plants along the Mediterranean Coast. These facilities, along with new sewage treatment plants, were funded by international bodies like the World Bank and the European Investment Bank.
Water and sewage treatment in Gaza has been mostly inoperable for weeks due to fuel and electricity shortages, as well as damage caused by Israel’s bombing campaign. Israel had also shut off pipes supplying water from its territory to Gaza following the Hamas attack, although water supply to parts of southern Gaza has since resumed.
The lack of desalination has significantly increased the risk of bacterial infections throughout Gaza, according to the World Health Organization. Damaged water and sanitation systems have also increased the risk of disease outbreaks, with an increase in diarrhea cases, skin rashes, chickenpox, scabies, and lice.