DEIR SHARAF, West Bank (AFP) - A nauseating stench rises from this disused West Bank quarry where rubbish from a Jewish settlement is slowly piling up. With thousands of tonnes more Israeli waste set to arrive, the Palestinian village of Deir Sharaf fears the worst.
The quarry, which a northern West Bank settlement has been using as a rubbish dump for the past three years, lies some 700 metres (yards) outside Deir Sharaf, a small village of 3,000 people.
Now, Israeli media have announced that around 10,000 tonnes of domestic and industrial waste produced in and around Tel Aviv is to be dumped here every month.
"What we fear most is pollution of the water table," municipal council leader Najib Sihha told AFP.
There are five artesian wells around the new tip, supplying water to Deir Sharaf but also to the northern West Bank's main city of Nablus, and another village, Beit Iba, he says.
"I fear that epidemics and disease will spread through neighbouring villages. Human rights and environmental organisations must do something quickly to close this rubbish dump down."
The tip is in a vast quarry that belongs to the Palestinian Abu Shusha family and has been closed since an Israeli West Bank offensive in April 2002.
Rubbish is tipped into a gaping hole more than a hectare (2.5 acres) across, hewn out of the rock to a depth of 70 metres (220 feet).
The quarry's manager, Ihab Abu Shusha, says that the Israeli army forced him and his workers to leave the quarry in 2002.
"They confiscated a bulldozer and other equipment and forced us to leave the site where we have worked since 1984," he says.
"Since then, Israeli trucks have been tipping tonnes of rubbish from the Kedumim settlement and a nearby Israeli industrial zone into the quarry."
Dumping was interrupted for a year after a complaint was lodged with Israeli military authorities, he says.
Although a ban on dumping in the quarry is again in force after a fresh complaint was lodged, Israeli trucks continue to bring rubbish under cover of night, says Abu Shusha.
"We have made a request to the Israeli supreme court to get back our land and receive compensation but no decision has yet been taken."
Meanwhile, Israeli bulldozers began to enlarge the dump two weeks ago.
"The situation is going to get worse and it will become an official dump," says Abu Shusha.
Rubbish disposal at the site has been subcontracted to a company called Baron Industrial Park, which makes six shekels for every tonne dumped, or 60,000 shekels (10,000 euros) a month, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.