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Israeli Aircrafts Spray and Damage Palestinian Agricultural Lands near the Buffer Zone
- [13-19 April] - Ref.: 39/2015
25، Apr 2015

On 14 and 17 April 2015, Israeli agricultural aircrafts sprayed the buffer zone area along east of Deir Al-Balah and east of Khan Younes with pesticides, affecting Palestinian agricultural lands nearby. As a result, some crops in these fields were burnt and damaged.

Husam Muhammad Abu Muhareb - Wadi Al-Salqa - Deir Al-Balah

Israeli_Aircrafts_Spray_and_Damage_Palestinian_Agricultural_Lands_Husam, 29, lives in Wadi Al-Salqa, located about one kilometre from the buffer zone in Deir Al-Balah. He has worked in agriculture for over 10 years. Husam and his brothers own 20 dunums of agricultural lands near the buffer zone. He also works on 100-dunum of land owned by two families located approximately 500 metres from the buffer zone. These lands are planted seasonally - currently they are planted with capsicum, corn, watermelon, courgette and cucumber.

On Tuesday 14 April 2015 at approximately 6:20 am, Husam and five other farmers headed to work on the farmlands. Ten minutes from their arrival, Husam saw a yellow Israeli agricultural aircraft flying low across the buffer zone between Al-Qarara, Khan Younes, and Wadi Al-Salqa towns. The aircraft sprayed the farmlands in the area with something that smelled like pesticides. The spraying continued for two hours. Husam then noticed a white substance on the plants and fruits on the land that he worked. Husam continued work that day as usual and went home at approximately 7:00 pm.

On Wednesday morning, Husam routinely went to the farmland and found that some of the crops had been burnt and damaged. He saw that the white substance had spread all over the crops in the fields located 300 - 700 metres from the buffer zone. Thirty-five dunums of the land Husam works on were burnt and damaged, costing over 100,000 USD. Other crops in neighbouring farmlands in the same area were damaged as well, in addition to the farmlands damaged in Al-Qarara.

On Friday 17 April at approximately 8:00 pm, Husam saw the same aircraft spraying the farmlands in the same area for two hours. In February 2014, the same incident occurred where 10 dunums of farmland owned by Husam and his family were damaged, costing them approximately 30,000 USD then. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10602/2015)

The buffer zone is a military area surrounding the Gaza Strip both at land and sea where Palestinians are prohibited access. Most of the buffer zone on land is located on Palestinian agricultural land, while the buffer zone at sea currently limits fishing activities to six nautical miles. According to a UN OCHA report, in July 2014, 44 per cent of Gaza within a 3 kilometre wide strip was declared as a buffer zone. The buffer zone encompasses an estimated 30 - 40 percent of Gaza's agricultural lands and a significant number of water wells.[1]

Israel has targeted Palestinian civilians, working near and within the buffer zone through a variety of means ranging from opening fire at civilians and spraying Palestinian agricultural fields with pesticides. These actions, both at land and sea, constitute a blatant violation of Israel's obligations under international law. As the Occupying Power, Israel must ensure public order and safety. Moreover, under the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Israel has the duty to ensure the right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to health. Spraying Palestinian farmlands with a substance unknown to the Palestinians living and working in the area, causing immediate damage to their livelihoods is in breach of these rights.    

Israel’s recent actions in the buffer zone come in addition to its recurrent excessive use of force against Palestinian farmers and fishermen, resulting in the injury and death of many. These practices, along with Israel’s seven year long closure of the Gaza Strip, have stifled the economic situation for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The following video was taken by one of the residents of Wadi Al-Salqa on 17 April 2015 morning:

[1] Save the Children UK, Fact Sheet: Gaza Buffer Zone, (October 2009)