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LONDON: A BBC investigation has revealed that half of Gaza’s water and sanitation facilities have collapsed since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Satellite footage from BBC Verify showed just over half of the 603 desalination plants and borehole systems used to supply water to Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, along with four of the six wastewater treatment plants.

According to an aid agency cited by the BBC, the remaining two treatment plants have shut down due to lack of fuel or supplies. Repair efforts have been severely disrupted by damage to a major depot.

The collapse of facilities has led to a surge in waterborne illnesses, posing serious health risks to the population and particularly to children and pregnant women.

The number of cases of diarrheal disease, hepatitis A, and in some cases, cholera, have all spiked dramatically.

Dr. Natalie Roberts, executive director of Medecins Sans Frontieres UK, said the destruction of water and sanitation facilities had resulted in “disastrous health consequences for the population,” leading to fatalities.

She highlighted Rafah and the southern border region as particularly affected areas.

The BBC said as the exact condition of each facility could not be determined, there was no distinction between classifying them as “destroyed” or “damaged”. 

It also acknowledged that not all damage was visible from the satellite images — mostly in northern Gaza or the area around the southern city of Khan Younis — so some affected facilities could have been missed.

The situation has been exacerbated by damage to Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility and the main service depot of UNICEF, making repairs challenging.

Human rights experts argue facilities critical to civilian survival should be protected.

Leila Sadat, a former special advisor on crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, suggested the pattern of destruction indicated either a “reckless approach” to civilian infrastructure or intentional targeting.

She added it was possible that “these were not all mistakes.”

In response to BBC’s findings, the Israel Defense Forces said Hamas used civilian infrastructure for military purposes, storing weapons and ammunition.

It maintains water facilities were primarily struck during airstrikes targeting Hamas fighters and denies intentionally targeting civilian infrastructure.

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