January 15, 2009 – EcoPeace calls for an Immediate Cessation of Violence and for UNEP to Assess the Environmental Damages of the Conflict

EcoPeace Middle East Renews Its Call for an Immediate Cessation of Violence; Condemns Human and Environmental Toll

Call made for UNEP to Assess the Environmental Damages of the Conflict

Amman / Bethlehem / Tel Aviv

15 January 2009

EcoPeace Middle East  is deeply alarmed by the humanitarian crisis and the widespread destruction of civil infrastructure. The ongoing Israeli – Palestinian conflict has had dangerous repercussions for the Gaza Strip’s already dilapidated water supply network and sewage systems. UN reports indicate that more than 500,000 Palestinians in Gaza remain without safe drinking water and sewerage collection systems and treatment facilities have ceased functioning resulting in sewage in the streets. Furthermore, these sewerage systems are in danger of overflowing leading to raw sewage floods into the surrounding communities and the Mediterranean Sea. Sewage contamination will lead to long-term consequences for both Palestinians and Israelis including the outbreak of infectious diseases and the loss of important groundwater sources through pollution.

EcoPeace Middle East appeals to the United Nations Environmental Programme to send a team from its Post-Conflict Assessment Unit to Gaza and Israel in order to undertake an independent assessment of the environmental impacts of the recent escalation of fighting. The appeal comes in advance of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s arrival in Israel on January 15.

Nader Al Khateeb, Palestinian Director of EcoPeace Middle East said, “Allegations are currently widespread that the Israeli Army is utilizing white phosphorous and other chemical weapons in densely populated urban centres of the Gaza Strip. We join other peacemaking organizations in calling for an immediate cessation of the ongoing war that would also enable experts to investigate these allegations in order to properly assess the public health and environmental impacts of the conflict.”

EcoPeace Middle East calls on the UN Secretary-General to announce that the Post-Conflict Branch of the United Nations Environmental Programme will send a team to Gaza and Israel so that the environmental damage caused by the conflict can be independently assessed and recommendations made for reconstruction efforts.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East, said that documenting the consequences of war on the shared environment of Israel and Palestine highlights the loss to both nations and must be followed up by actions that will help avoid another round of violence and destruction. “As soon as the ceasefire comes into effect, reconstruction efforts, beyond urgent humanitarian assistance, should focus on working with communities on both sides of the border. The reconstruction effort should involve grassroots peace-building efforts so that the ceasefire has a better chance of survival and that infrastructure rebuilt will not again be destroyed by the next round of violence.”

For more information on cross-border community based peacemaking efforts visit FoEME’s Good Water Neighbor’s project at http://www.ecopeaceme.org and contact:

– Nader Al Khateeb, Palestinian Director of EcoPeace Middle East
T: 972 522875022, [email protected] (spoken languages: English and Arabic)

– Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East
T: 972 52 4532597, [email protected] (spoken languages: English and Hebrew)

– Mira Edelstein, Foreign Media Officer, EcoPeace Middle East
T: 972 54 6392937, [email protected] (spoken languages: English and Hebrew)