Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Water Crisis Batters War-Torn Sudan as Temperatures Soar

People refill donkey-drawn water tanks during a water crisis in Port Sudan in the Red Sea State of war-torn Sudan on April 9, 2024. (AFP)
People refill donkey-drawn water tanks during a water crisis in Port Sudan in the Red Sea State of war-torn Sudan on April 9, 2024. (AFP)
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Water Crisis Batters War-Torn Sudan as Temperatures Soar

People refill donkey-drawn water tanks during a water crisis in Port Sudan in the Red Sea State of war-torn Sudan on April 9, 2024. (AFP)
People refill donkey-drawn water tanks during a water crisis in Port Sudan in the Red Sea State of war-torn Sudan on April 9, 2024. (AFP)

War, climate change and man-made shortages have brought Sudan -- a nation already facing a litany of horrors -- to the shores of a water crisis.

"Since the war began, two of my children have walked 14 kilometers (nine miles) every day to get water for the family," Issa, a father of seven, told AFP from North Darfur state.

In the blistering sun, as temperatures climb past 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), Issa's family -- along with 65,000 other residents of the Sortoni displacement camp -- suffer the weight of the war between Sudan's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

When the first shots rang out more than a year ago, most foreign aid groups -- including the one operating Sortoni's local water station -- could no longer operate. Residents were left to fend for themselves.

The country at large, despite its many water sources including the mighty Nile River, is no stranger to water scarcity.

Even before the war, a quarter of the population had to walk more than 50 minutes to fetch water, according to the United Nations.

Now, from the western deserts of Darfur, through the fertile Nile Valley and all the way to the Red Sea coast, a water crisis has hit 48 million war-weary Sudanese who the US ambassador to the United Nations on Friday said are already facing "the largest humanitarian crisis on the face of the planet."

- No fuel, no water -

Around 110 kilometers east of Sortoni, deadly clashes in North Darfur's capital of El-Fasher, besieged by RSF, threaten water access for more than 800,000 civilians.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Friday said fighting in El-Fasher had killed at least 226.

Just outside the city, fighting over the Golo water reservoir "risks cutting off safe and adequate water for about 270,000 people", the UN children's agency UNICEF has warned.

Access to water and other scarce resources has long been a source of conflict in Sudan.

The UN Security Council on Thursday demanded that the siege of El-Fasher end.

If it goes on, hundreds of thousands more people who rely on the area's groundwater will go without.

"The water is there, but it's more than 60 meters (66 yards) deep, deeper than a hand-pump can go," according to a European diplomat with years of experience in Sudan's water sector.

"If the RSF doesn't allow fuel to go in, the water stations will stop working," he told AFP, requesting anonymity because the diplomat was not authorized to speak to media.

"For a large part of the population, there will simply be no water."

Already in the nearby village of Shaqra, where 40,000 people have sought shelter, "people stand in lines 300 meters long to get drinking water," said Adam Rijal, spokesperson for the civilian-led General Coordination for Displaced Persons and Refugees in Darfur.

In photos he sent to AFP, some women and children can be seen huddled under the shade of lonely acacia trees, while most swelter in the blazing sun, waiting their turn.

- Dirty water -

Sudan is hard-hit by climate change, and "you see it most clearly in the increase in temperature and rainfall intensity," the diplomat said.

This summer, the mercury is expected to continue rising until the rainy season hits in August, bringing with it torrential floods that kill dozens every year.

The capital Khartoum sits at the legendary meeting point of the Blue Nile and White Nile rivers -- yet its people are parched.

The Soba water station, which supplies water to much of the capital, "has been out of service since the war began," said a volunteer from the local resistance committee, one of hundreds of grassroots groups coordinating wartime aid.

People have since been buying untreated "water off of animal-drawn carts, which they can hardly afford and exposes them to diseases," he told AFP, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Entire neighborhoods of Khartoum North "have gone without drinking water for a year," another local volunteer told AFP, requesting to be identified only by his first name, Salah.

"People wanted to stay in their homes, even through the fighting, but they couldn't last without water," Salah said.

- Parched and displaced -

Hundreds of thousands have fled the fighting eastward, many to the de facto capital of Port Sudan on the Red Sea -- itself facing a "huge water issue" that will only get "worse in the summer months," resident al-Sadek Hussein worries.

The city depends on only one inadequate reservoir for its water supply.

Here, too, citizens rely on horse- and donkey-drawn carts to deliver water, using "tools that need to be monitored and controlled to prevent contamination," public health expert Taha Taher told AFP.

"But with all the displacement, of course this doesn't happen," he said.

Between April 2023 and March 2024, the health ministry recorded nearly 11,000 cases of cholera -- a disease endemic to Sudan, "but not like this" when it has become "year-round," the European diplomat said.

The outbreak comes with the majority of Sudan's hospitals shut down and the United States warning on Friday that a famine of historic global proportions could unfold without urgent action.

"Health care has collapsed, people are drinking dirty water, they are hungry and will get hungrier, which will kill many, many more," the diplomat said.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Israel-Hezbollah War... More Severe than ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’

An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
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Israel-Hezbollah War... More Severe than ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’

An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

In conflicts, both sides often set traps for each other. Yet today, in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, it appears both sides are falling into their own traps.

In the current Israel-Hezbollah conflict, despite denying interest in widening the war, both are moving towards escalation.

Israel continues military drills for expansion, supported by polls showing public backing, though decreasing recently. This support concerns Tel Aviv’s military leaders, who fear the public underestimates the war’s consequences.

Former Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata warns such a war could devastate parts of Lebanon and cause significant harm in Israel, potentially resulting in around 15,000 deaths.

The Terrorism Research Institute at Reichman University conducted a study with 100 military and academic experts on potential war scenarios with Hezbollah.

Their findings were alarming: they warned that such a conflict could quickly escalate across multiple fronts, involving Iranian militias in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, alongside Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank.

The study predicted that Hezbollah could launch a daily barrage of 2,500 to 3,000 rockets for 21 days, targeting military bases, cities like Tel Aviv, and critical infrastructure such as power plants, gas fields, desalination plants, airports, and weapon depots.

This onslaught would likely cause widespread chaos among Israelis.

Furthermore, Hezbollah might employ its strategy of sending “Radwan” units to infiltrate Israeli borders and occupy towns, similar to Hamas’ actions during operation Al-Aqsa Flood on Oct. 7.

The “Gaza-style destruction” scenario was initially floated to dampen calls for the army to invade Lebanese territory.

The Israeli military, wary of right-wing political pressures and their own hesitations about war, countered by publicizing plans indicating serious readiness.

Leaked drills suggest they are preparing for a large-scale ground invasion, aiming to occupy southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, possibly further to the Zahrani River.

They state that if Hezbollah rejects a political deal to stay away from borders, the military will enforce this with force.

They detail that the war could start with intense airstrikes, similar to Gaza, followed by a ground invasion.

Military sources reveal Israel has received delayed US weapons, including smart bombs, set to be used in airstrikes on southern Beirut suburbs and the Bekaa region at least.

The Litani River lies four kilometers from the border at its closest and extends 29 kilometers at its furthest, covering 1,020 square kilometers. It includes three major cities: Tyre (175,000 residents), Bint Jbeil, and Marjayoun, housing half a million people, with over 100,000 displaced.

Occupying this entire area won’t be easy. Hezbollah is stronger than Hamas, with a more extensive tunnel network and advanced weaponry. They’ve long been prepared for this war.

If Israel plans a short 21-day war, nothing guarantees that timeline, risking entanglement in Lebanon’s challenges once again.

The Israeli military is gearing up for a long war, preparing emergency reserves in hospitals, factories, government offices, and shelters.

They fear Hezbollah could launch thousands of rockets and drones, targeting key infrastructure like power plants, water desalination facilities, and gas wells.

Recent drills also factor in possible direct Iranian involvement, which could disrupt Red Sea shipping and possibly lead to strikes on Cyprus. This means all of Israel could face serious threats.

The Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies reports that Hezbollah has already fired over 5,000 projectiles from Lebanon, causing 33 deaths and extensive damage to both civilian and military targets in Israel.

There’s growing concern about the future of northern Israel, including 28 evacuated settlements and the city of Kiryat Shmona, whose residents are uncertain when they can safely return home.