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Israeli planes spray pesticides on Palestinian farmlands in southern Gaza

April 5, 2017 11:15 A.M. (Updated: April 6, 2017 11:29 P.M.)
(File)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces continued spraying pesticides on Palestinian farm lands along the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip Wednesday morning, according to local sources.

Eyewitnesses told Ma’an that Israeli planes were hovering in the airspace above eastern Khan Yunis in the morning, starting at 6 a.m., when they began spraying pesticides on farmlands near the Palestinian side of the “buffer zone,” causing fear among farmers that their crops would be damaged, as has been the case in the past.

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into the reports.

On Tuesday, in the southeastern and central eastern parts of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian farmers reported similar incidents, adding that fields of melon, watermelon, okra, and wheat were sprayed with pesticides that may harm the crops.

Earlier this year, also in the Khan Yunis area, Israeli forces sprayed weedkillers on 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.

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