Agence France Presse (AFP)
September 26, 2008 - 8:00pm

Around 300 Palestinians protested on Friday in the Occupied West Bank against what they say is an Israeli plan to reopen a controversial toxic waste dump near important underground springs. After holding Friday prayers at the site outside the village of Deir Sharaf, hundreds of demonstrators waved signs reading "Stop Dumping Settler Waste on Palestinian Lands" and "Waste Destroys the Palestinian Environment."

Israel dumped waste from Israeli towns and West Bank settlements at the site until it was closed in 2005 amid protests from Palestinian residents who said the dumping threatened underground wells.

Officials say Israeli work crews have returned to the area in recent weeks, raising fears the site may soon reopen.

"This is a very dangerous place to dump waste, because it is going to pollute water in Palestinian lands," said Mohammad Abu Safat, a geologist at Al-Najah University who attended the protest.

There are five artesian wells around the site, supplying water to Deir Sharaf but also to the northern Occupied West Bank's main city of Nablus, and another village, Beit Iba.

"There is an underground well no more than 500 meters away, so this would endanger the water on which tens of thousands of Palestinians depend," Abu Safat said.

A spokesman for Israel's coordinator of activities in the Occupied Palestinian territories said no decision has been taken on reopening the tip.

"There are some preliminary plans but nothing substantial," Major Peter Lerner told AFP. "In any case if the site were reopened it would be used for all the residents in the area, not just Israel and the settlements."

Palestinian officials said they plan to meet representatives from Israel's environment ministry on Sunday and will try to prevent the reopening of the site by holding regular protests and launching legal appeals.


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