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Israeli forces open fire at Palestinian homes, spray pesticides on crops in Gaza

April 4, 2017 2:17 P.M. (Updated: April 4, 2017 8:31 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces opened fire on Tuesday morning at Palestinian houses and agricultural lands in eastern Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Witnesses told Ma'an that gunshots were fired from Israeli military pillboxes across the border fence, causing material damage to a number of houses. No injuries were reported.

Separately, in the southeastern and central eastern parts of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian farmers reported that Israeli drones sprayed "poisonous pesticides” on crops near the borders with Israel.

They added that fields of melon, watermelon, okra, and wheat were sprayed with pesticides that may harm the crops.

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports of both incidents.

Earlier this year, a similar incident took place in the Khan Yunis area when Israeli forces sprayed weedkillers on Gazan farmlands near the border, burning crops belonging to Palestinian farmers.

A Palestinian farmer called Abu Ahmad told Ma’an at the time that Israeli forces spray weed killers to dry wild plants on both sides of the border fence in order to “guarantee clear vision for the Israeli army to watch the area and prevent entry of Palestinians into Israel.”

He highlighted that the spray travels “dozens of meters” throughout the air away from the targeted area, causing serious damages to Palestinian crops far beyond the buffer zone.

Agronomist Wael Thabet of the Gaza Ministry of Agriculture told Ma’an that the ministry had asked several international human rights groups two years ago to intervene and ask Israel to stop spraying weed killers near the border area.

"[The Israeli] occupation didn't respond positively and claimed that the process is meant to get rid of wild plants and weeds."

Reiterating Abu Ahmad’s point, Thabet said that the excess spray can travel up to 1,200 meters through the air away from the buffer zone, burning crops and causing Palestinian farmers huge economic losses.

Thabet added that the farmlands near the border area constitute about one third of the agricultural space in the besieged coastal enclave.

Palestinians who live and work near the unilaterally declared “buffer zone” between the Palestinian enclave and Israel also often come under fire from military forces, as the Israeli military has not made clear the precise area of the designated zone.

The practice has in effect destroyed much of the agricultural sector of the blockaded coastal enclave.

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