Fact Check

Israelis Filled Palestinians' Water Source with Concrete?

Israel tweeted in honor of World Water Day on March 22, 2024, and many X users accused the nation of hypocrisy.

Published March 27, 2024

 (Image via X account @heavenlydeamon98)
Image courtesy of Image via X account @heavenlydeamon98
A video that circulated in March 2024 showed Israelis filling a water well used by Palestinians with concrete.

The video was more than 7 months old, as of this writing. A Palestinian news outlet, Quds News Network, first posted the footage in July 2023.

On March 22, 2024, Israel tweeted in honor of World Water Day, saying, "We are proud to use our expertise in water to create a safer, greener, more sustainable future for all."

Many users responded to the post with claims involving a video that was originally shared in July 2023, in which Israelis appeared to pour concrete into a water well used by Palestinians in the West Bank.

The video was authentic — that is, it was not a product of digital manipulation or artificial-intelligence software — and accurately captioned. A speaker in the video says the Israeli army was using "equipment, forces, bulldozers, and cement mixers to close the existing water springs and wells," according to an Arabic-to-English translation of the footage by Middle East Eye. Reputable news outlets including Al Jazeera confirmed that's what was happening.

However, it was not recorded recently; as of this writing, the footage was more than 7 months old. 

The TikTok video featured in the above-mentioned X post was posted by Al Jazeera English on July 27, 2023, captioned: "Video footage show Israeli army personnel pouring cement into a water source which supplies Palestinians near the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank." At the time, that news outlet shared the footage via its various social media accounts, crediting a Palestinian news outlet, Quds News Network, as the video's source.

As far as we can determine, Quds News Network was the first outlet to publish the footage online (archived here) on July 26, 2023. We contacted the outlet asking whether its reporters captured the video, or whether a reader submitted it for publication, and for information its location and subjects. We have not yet received a response, but we will update this report if that changes.

In other words, it was unknown who filmed the footage before its posting online by Quds News Network in July 2023.

In the video, an unidentified man said the following about what was taking place, according to the translation by Middle East Eye (archived here): 

What happened is that we were on our land that we inherited and have been on for hundreds of years. We were surprised to the Israeli army coming with all its equipment, forces, bulldozers, and cement mixers to close the existing water springs and wells that we used to cultivate our land, which is 80 dunums [traditional unit of land area in the Middle East] in size. Also, plastic basins planted with cucumbers, tomatoes, and several vegetables, as well as outdoor cultivation that supports a large number of families here. 

On Aug. 5, 2023, days after the Quds News Network's post, B'tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) — a Jerusalem-based nonprofit — posted additional footage of the incident from a different angle on its YouTube account. That video included the caption:

Israel pours concrete into well and destroys irrigation system in the Palestinian village of al-Hijrah, south of Hebron.

On Wednesday morning, 26 July 2023, Civil Administration personnel arrived with a military and Border Police escort, a bulldozer and a cement mixer at the Palestinian village of al-Hijrah, south of Hebron. The forces poured concrete into four water wells and destroyed a roughly 20-meter-long pipe used to irrigate crops, damaging the crops themselves along the way.

As they were working on destroying the pipe, the forces fired a sponge bullet at a Palestinian who approached the area, injuring him lightly in the back. He received treatment on site.

The Broader Context, and What Happened Next

According to a news story (archived here) by the Times of Israel on July 29, 2023, the Civil Administration unit said in a statement the well had been dug illegally, and, thus, potentially threatened natural water resources in the area.

When the video was first posted, multiple accounts on X defended Israeli officials' decision to fill the well. One account for the Israel Advocacy Movement, a U.K.-based organization, claimed "any alteration to the water system could have catastrophic consequences for all communities."

The Israel Advocacy Movement pointed to Article 40 of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which requires both Israelis and Palestinians to "agree to coordinate the management of water and sewage resources and systems in the West Bank. The Oslo Accords are two agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization intended to be in place temporarily. They remain in place today.

One day after the video was posted, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Ghassan Alian, announced future "enforcements against allegedly illegal construction of water installations will have to be examined based on the merits of the case" and receive approval by the head of the Civil Administration unit. We reached out to COGAT, asking for more information on the specific guidelines that were violated and how, exactly, the water was possibly threatened. The agency has not responded to our inquiry yet.

In other words, after the video surfaced and the Times of Israel published its report, Israeli government officials announced they would add steps to their process of reviewing sites supposedly posing threats to water sources before taking action (like filling the holes with concrete).

When destroying property or infrastructure, particularly in the West Bank, Israeli government officials often claim the in-question sites are a military or security threat, or do not have the necessary permits. According to reporting by The Associated Press, Israel's complex system for granting permits for new construction is a way to prevent "Palestinians' attempts to live a semblance of a normal life." As stated in a 2018 article (archived here):

The system, mainly run by a military administration known by its acronym COGAT, has swelled into a sprawling bureaucracy with intricate categories and arcane rules, often opaque and confusing, according to interviews with those involved in and affected by the system. The result often confounds Palestinians' attempts to live a semblance of a normal life.

Access to water across Israel and the West Bank varies by location. One story by Al Jazeera, published about a month after the concrete-pouring video first surfaced online, said Israeli settlements in the West Bank flourished with greenery and children splashed in community pools, while Palestinian communities accessed "barely get enough water to bathe their children and wash their clothes – let alone sustain livestock and grow fruit trees."

We've previously reported on Palestinians' access to rainwater, and whether it is deemed Israeli property.


B'tselem. Israel Pours Concrete into Well and Destroys Irrigation System in the Palestinian Village of Al-Hijrah, South of Hebron. 3 Aug. 2023, https://www.btselem.org/video/20230803_civil_administration_pours_concrete_into_irrigation_wells_used_and_destroys_pipe_in_al_hijrah_south_of_hebron#full.

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Israeli Forces Fill Water Springs and Agricultural Lands in Hebron with Concretewww.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZkSRlIs9o0. Accessed 20 Mar. 2024.

Israel Pours Concrete into Well and Destroys Irrigation System, al-Hijrah, South of Hebron, 26.7.23www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZ1jXR-ymD0. Accessed 20 Mar. 2024.

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Taija PerryCook is a Seattle-based journalist who previously worked for the PNW news site Crosscut and the Jordan Times in Amman.