Israeli authorities have resumed spraying herbicides along the border fence with the Gaza Strip, causing damage to Palestinian crops.
According to NGO Gisha, on 23 January last week, "civilian planes hired by the Israeli air force, sprayed herbicides near the fence that separates the Strip from Israel, in proximity to Palestinian farmland in northern and central Gaza."
Two planes sprayed close to land owned by Saleh Mohammad a-Najar, a vegetable grower in the area between Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah, with the chemicals "carried by winds onto his fields." A-Najar told Gisha of his fear that damage to his crops could cause him to go bankrupt.
Last September, Gisha reports, the Israeli Ministry of Defense claimed that the spraying is part of "routine security activity", and is done "inside Israel's territory." However, Gaza farmers "have been reporting for years about crops that are damaged by the spraying."
Gisha additionally notes how "Israel regularly sends heavy equipment, tanks and soldiers to raze and clear lands inside the Strip, as it sees fit."
"Using harmful and inaccurate means such as spraying from the air devastates farmers' livelihoods and destroys the crops they grow with painstaking effort. The environmental or long and short-term health risks of exposure to the substances is unknown."
A year ago, the Israeli army similar confirmed it was using crop-dusters to spray herbicides "in the area along the border fence…in order to enable optimal and continuous security operations." On that occasion, Palestinian officials said over 420 acres of land were damaged by the spraying.