Israel resumes spraying harmful pesticides along Gaza border

Israel resumes spraying harmful pesticides along Gaza border
The Israeli army sprayed pesticides along its border with Gaza for three days last week, returning to the practice after a yearlong break.
3 min read
22 January, 2020
Palestinian farmers have lost their crops due to Israel's spraying [AFP/Getty]
Israel has resumed spraying pesticides along the border with the blockaded Gaza Strip after pausing the practice for a year, Haaretz reported.

The Israeli army sprayed pesticides along the border area for three days last week.

Before halting the practice in 2019, Israel had sprayed Gaza's border with pesticides every spring and fall from 2014 to 2018.

Within those four years, the pesticides damaged 14,000 dunams of agricultural land in Gaza and destroyed all the crops that had been planted there, according to the Palestinian agriculture ministry.

When asked why the spraying was resumed, the defence ministry told Haaretz: "Aerial spraying is done from time to time based on security needs, but solely within Israel's territory."

The Israeli army alleges that spraying is necessary to destory vegetation that could possibly block the view of soldiers, allowing "terrorists" to hide there.

Three organisations, Gisha, Adalah and Al Mezan, have petitioned the Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennet to stop the spraying.

The groups said there were "serious fears" that the spraying has harmed farmers in the border area.

Israel's defence ministry denies that the practice does any agriculture damage, alleging that the same pesticides are using by farmers in Israel and abroad.

The ministry says it has experts supervise the spraying. 

But Palestinian farmers told Haaretz that they finally had a profitable year in 2019 - when the spraying was halted.

"In previous years, there was major damage. Sometimes dozens of dunams of wheat, barley and parsley were completely lost," Gazan farmer Anwar Jamali told the Israeli newspaper.

Jamali, whose field lies 300 metres from the border fence, said Gaza's farmers were given no advance warning of the spraying.

The spraying is done on Israeli land, however, the wind carries the pesticides over the border and into Palestinian territory, according to London-based research agency Forensic Agriculture.

Israel's defence ministry requires the company which conducts the spraying to burn tires before it begins to check the wind direction, reveals a document obtained by Gisha through a freedom of information request.

Video clips show tires being burned on the Israeli side of border just before pesticides are sprayed.

A researcher from Forensic Architecture has accused the Israeli army of "recruiting" the wind for its own purposes - i.e. spray the chemicals when it is blowing in the direction of Gaza.

Read also: ICC to investigate Israeli 'war crimes' against Palestinians

Israel's uncontrolled opening of a water dam's gates has further caused $500,000 worth of damage to agricultural areas in the besieged territory, according to a statement released by the Palestinian agriculture ministry in January.

Poisoning Palestinian livestock and water is a common tactic of Israel in the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, which Israel illegally took over in 1967.

In 2007, Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the strip, effectively turning the coastal enclave into an open-air prison, where basic necessities such as food, fuel and medicines are severely controlled.

Nearly 70 percent of Gaza's population is food insecure and around 80 percent of Palestinians in impoverished enclave are reliant on international aid, according to the United Nations.

In addition to damaging crops, Israel blocks food deliveries from reaching the besieged enclave, along with restricting Palestinians from fishing on their own maritime territory.

Israel insists its blockade is necessary to isolate Hamas, with which it has fought three wars since 2008, scarring the besieged enclave.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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