Israeli authorities launched a large operation on Sunday night and Monday against Arab water thieves in the Hebron Hills area.
IDF and Police forces confiscated 18 tankers, drilling equipment and dozens of kilometers of pipeline used to lead the stolen water to the fields, and sealed a number of pirate connections.
The forces also detained a number of individuals suspected of involvement in water theft. The army stated that it hopes that the action will lead to deterrence and reduce the thefts in the summer.
Monday’s operation was that latest in a series of operations carried out by Israeli authorities to locate pirate connections, including the daily patrolling along the water pipeline to locate and cut off thefts.
According to weekly estimates, Arabs steal over 500 cubic meters of water which they use to irrigate their fields, located in many cases in illegal areas.
Israelis in communities in the Hebron area have been contending with reoccurring water cuts, the result of water theft carried out by local Arabs during the summer months, a phenomenon which has increased in recent weeks.
The Arabs connect illegally to the water system and by doing so cause the water pressure to drop and deplete the resources.
As a result of the water cuts, the National Water Authority was forced last summer to send over 10 large water tankers to the Mount Hebron area in order to prevent a severe water crisis that threatened thousands of residents.
In recent weeks, the regional council has repeatedly issued notices asking residents to refrain from using water for laundry, watering of gardens, and filling pools, so that they will have drinking water. This phenomenon is repeated every year during the summer months.
“We wake up every morning to a morning without a drop of water, we barely organize ourselves and send our children to kindergartens where there is no water. Hundreds of residents are forced to live on bottled water,” said Nitzan Zoran, a mother of four girls who live in the community of Avigail. “We don’t talk about laundry and showers, we have given up on those.”
Tzachi, who manages thousands of dunams of orchards in the area, said that “every week we are asked to close the irrigation to the orchards, creating an absurd situation in which agriculture has become the problem instead of the solution.”
“We are not going to be able to continue to work,” he warned.
Yochai Damari, head of the Mount Hebron Regional Council, thanked the authorities for their action and slammed the phenomenon as “real water terrorism.”
“The Arabs do not lack water, they have their own resources, but as part of the takeover of Area C, they need water for agriculture and new and remote housing. It is unacceptable that Israeli citizens, who pay taxes to the state, continue to suffer while the thieves continue to enjoy a supply of water without interruption,” he charged.
He called upon Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “triple enforcement in the field in order to stop the erosion of sovereignty, the harm to the residents, and a great financial loss to the State of Israel.”