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Human rights defenders urge Israel to stop spraying dangerous herbicides over Gaza

Farmer inspects crops damaged by Israel in Gaza. [File photo]
A Palestinian farmer inspecting his crops which were damaged by Israeli forces [File photo]

Human rights defenders have urged Israeli authorities to cease spraying dangerous herbicides over the occupied Gaza Strip, a press release by legal rights centre Adalah stated yesterday.

On Monday, human rights groups Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, and Adalah, wrote to senior 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 risk to the health of Gaza residents caused by the spraying.”

On 4 December, the Israeli military “sprayed herbicides from the air over areas inside the Gaza Strip and near the fence separating it from Israel”. A variety of crops grown in fields near the fence inside the Gaza Strip were “damaged as a result”.

In December 2015, the military “confirmed it uses planes to spray herbicides near the fence in order to clear terrain”, with farmers reporting spraying since 2014.

READ: Israel minister halts vegetable, fruit imports from Palestine 

In the letter submitted on Monday, the human rights NGOs emphasised “that the spraying is a highly destructive measure, infringing on fundamental human rights and violating both Israeli and international law”.

“Contrary to Israel’s official position,” Adalah added, “whereby the military only sprays herbicides over Israeli territory, farmers in Gaza report that the planes spray over the Strip’s aerial space.”

“The letter further notes that even if the spraying were to in fact take place only on the Israeli side, the chemical agents used are carried by wind over to the Gaza Strip, causing severe damage to crops and disproportionate financial losses to local farmers, meaning that there is no justification or legal basis for the continued use of this destructive practice.”

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