Thursday, January 28, 2016

Israeli herbicide spraying damages and destroys Gaza crops

Israel is spraying herbicide along the border with the Gaza strip for what Israeli army officials claim is for "security reasons."

On January 7, the spraying by a low-flying agricultural aircraft eradicated or damaged up to 162 hectares of crops along the fence area on the Israeli border. Anwar Assi, manager of the chemical laboratory at the Ministry of Agriculture, said :
"Herbicides are sprayed in high concentrations. Thus, they remain embedded in the soil, and then find their way to the water basin. This constitutes a real hazard for the population,"
The spraying is along a buffer or "no-go" zone unilaterally imposed by Israel. The zone represents an estimated 17 percent of the territory of the tiny Gaza Strip and a third of the agricultural area, passing through some of Gaza's most fertile soils. Last week, Yousef Shahin, who was having trouble as it was sustaining his farmland, had his water tank targeted by an Israeli raid. The tank supplied not only his own farm but others in an area east of Khan Younis. The tank and collection system cost he and his neighbours some $15,000. With no government support to rebuild Shahin said: "Without support, we can never reconstruct the system again. We don't have running water for irrigation; I think we lost this season..We had to jeopardize our lives daily growing these crops; now all our efforts are in vain,"Within the last few months at least 16 Palestinians who entered the buffer zone have been killed. Most have been protesters shot by Israeli snipers.
Wind has taken the herbicide spray beyond the buffer zone. There is a safety period that needs to be observed before planting again in an area that has been sprayed. The 2014 war caused over $500 million in damage to the Gazan agricultural sector; 14,000 hectares of crops were destroyed and many thousands more lost because farmers could not tend to the crops because of the fighting. The Israeli army has admitted that it carried out the recent spraying.
Just a few days ago, Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza's main agricultural experimental station causing an estimated $300,000 in damages as it destroyed the building, laboratories, vehicles and a large power generator.It was also bombed and completely destroyed during the 2014 Gaza war.
Israel places restrictions on the import of tractors and agricultural machinery. Adel Alallah, general director of the Agricultural Ministry said: "Domestic farmers face problems trying to replenish anything that goes out of service. What isn't banned is stalled at the crossings by Israel." When the irrigation system does work it is plagued by power outages.
Some argue that Israel has a deliberate policy of targeting Palestinian infrastructure to make Palestinian communities unsustainable. The targeting of water infrastructure is prohibited under Protocol I of the Geneva Convention of 1977.


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