Human rights groups urge Israel to halt aerial herbicide spraying along Gaza fence

The Israeli military destroys vast amounts of agriculture and crops (File photo)

Middle East Monitor  /  January 17, 2020

Human rights organisations have urged Israel to immediately halt renewed aerial herbicide spraying along the Gaza Strip perimeter fence, stated legal rights centre Adalah.

Israeli crop dusters flew along the fence on Tuesday “and sprayed chemicals purported to be herbicides”, which was “conducted sporadically for about three and half hours”.

The chemicals reached Palestinian farmlands inside the Gaza Strip, mainly east of Gaza, North Gaza, and Deir al-Balah districts.

Gisha, Adalah, and Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, have sent a letter to Israeli officials “with an urgent demand to refrain from conducting further aerial spraying of herbicides inside and near the Gaza Strip, due to the severe damage to crops and the health risks to Gaza residents”.

Israel’s practice of conducting aerial herbicide spraying was first documented in 2014, stated Adalah. “Herbicidal chemicals have reached distances as far as 1,200 meters into the Strip in previously documented incidents of spraying”, the organisation added.

Adalah noted that “it is estimated that a total area of 7,620 dunams of arable land in the Gaza Strip has been affected by aerial spraying since 2014, when the first incident of this type was reported”.

“Palestinian farmers have sustained widespread damage to their crops and incurred immense financial losses as a result, which drove some farmers to abandon cultivating fields near the perimeter fence due to the associated risks”.

In addition, in 2016 the Israeli Ministry of Defence “disclosed that the chemical agents used in the spraying include glyphosate…which had been declared a ‘probable carcinogen’ by the World Health Organization and has been banned in many countries around the world”.

No incidents of aerial spraying were documented in 2019, making the renewal of the practice particularly disturbing for Palestinian residents and human rights groups.