23 January 2020
After having been warned to tell the truth and nothing but the truth or else I shall be subjected to penal action, I, the undersigned, Riyad Ibrahim Ismail Al-Najjar, of Palestinian nationality, a farmer, and a resident of the Khuza’a, Khan Yunis Governorate, would like to declare the following:
I am married, father of three children, and a resident of the Khuza’a, in the east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. For five years, I have been working in agriculture, which constitutes my only source of income. For 150 USD per dunuma year, I have rented a plot of agricultural land near the fence, which is erected north and east of the Khuza’a. I reclaim the land and plant leaf crops, including spinach, parsley, watercress, etc. This year, I rented a two-dunum land, located about 500-600 metres away from the fence, north of the Khuza’a. About a month ago, I planted the land with spinach. I work on the land for eight hours every day, as I usually go to work early in the morning, and irrigate and tend the plants until the evening. On Thursday, 16 January 2020, I was at home near the land, as I was late for the usual time that I leave to the land in, due to the extreme and cold weather. At about 9:00 am of that day, a number of my farmer relatives called and told me that an Israeli airplane was spraying herbicides along the fence and opposite our land. I immediately rushed to the area. When I arrived, I saw a small Israeli airplane flying at a low altitude, about 40-50 metres above the ground, and spraying herbicides on land along the fence in the Khuza’a all the way through to the Abasan Al-Kabira town, which is adjacent to Khuza’a . Meantime, I saw the spray of the herbicides released by the airplane on agricultural land located hundreds of metres west of the fence, as it carried the herbicide to our land. I was also able to smell the herbicide. I stayed there to follow up with the incident. The airplane continued to spray herbicides until 11:00 am. After the herbicide spraying was over, I checked my land, I did not notice anything on the crops, and so, I went back home. The next morning, I left for my land as usual to tend the crops. When I got there, I noticed white spots all over the spinach leaves that was planted in my land. Two days later, the spinach leaves started to wither and perish. I also saw similar spots on the crops grown on dozens of dunums of nearby agricultural land belonging to other farmers, some of whom were my relatives. The other plots were planted with spinach, parsley, zucchini, wheat, and barley. About two days later, staff members of the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture came and checked the agricultural land, which had been sprayed. They told us that the crops were damaged and that we would not be allowed to harvest and sell them. I incurred a loss of almost 1,500 USD. I also need to cover the cost of damaging the crops. Further, the winter growing season is already over, as I cannot plough and cultivate the land now. Therefore, I have to wait for the summer season so that I can plant the land again. It should be noted that this was not the first time the Israeli airplanes sprayed herbicides, damaged our crops, and caused losses to us. Every year, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) spray herbicides at various times. On several occasions, we have sustained damage because of the herbicides sprayed by Israeli airplanes. I would like to note that, in addition to the damage caused to us, we are at risk of frequent shooting incidents. The Israeli occupying soldiers open fire on land in close proximity to the fence. The IOF forces also regularly make incursions into the fence area, forcing us at times to abandon our work and leave our land in fear that we would be injured. Still, we need to rent and cultivate land near the fence. Besides its low price, this land is fertile and close to our homes.
25 January 2020
After having been warned to tell the truth and nothing but the truth or else I shall be subjected to penal action, I, the undersigned, Mas’ad Khalaf Salman Habib, of Palestinian nationality, a farmer, and a resident of Al-Shuja'iyah neighbourhood, Gaza City, Gaza Governorate, would like to declare the following:
My name is Mas’ad Khalaf Salman Habib (51) and I am a resident of Al-Shuja'iyah neighbourhood, in the east of the Gaza Strip. I support a family of nine members through my work, along with my sons, in agriculture. I rent an almost 100-dunum agricultural land, located east of Al-Tuffah neighbourhood in the east of Gaza City, from the Palestinian Ministry of Waqf. The land is approximately 200 metres west of the fence in the east of Gaza City. The land is planted with winter crops, including spinach, chard, lettuce, white and red cabbage, cauliflower, beans, onions, garlic, wheat, and barley. We, the farmers who work close to the fence, are usually targeted in shooting incidents almost every day by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF). From time to time, Israeli bulldozers also raid the area and disrupt our work on our agricultural land. Most recently, between 5 and 15 January 2020, the IOF discharged rainwater from dams and storm drains east of the fence on farmers’ land near the fence in the Al-Taqah area, east of Al-Shuja'iyah neighbourhood, in the east of Gaza City. As a result, hundreds of dunums with ripe crops were flooded. At about 6:00 am on Tuesday, 14 January 2020, my sons and I went to work on our agricultural land as usual, as we spent some time tending the crops. At about 7:20 am, I saw a number of Israeli occupying soldiers, who were deployed behind the fence, burning a tyre east of the fence. As the black smoke rose in the air, the soldiers knew what direction the wind blew from. The IOF usually do so before Israeli airplanes would spray harmful chemical herbicides on the fence area adjacent to the fence as well as on agricultural land alongside the fence. About 10 minutes after the tyre had been burnt and soldiers made sure that the wind was blowing toward the west, I saw a yellow Israeli airplane flying from the north to the south and spraying harmful herbicides on farmers’ land along the fence area. The airplane sprayed herbicides at a low altitude, flying at 150-200 metres above the Palestinian agricultural land. The Israeli airplane continued to spray harmful herbicides on farmers’ land for almost three hours in a row. Throughout the three hours, the airplane flew back and forth and sprayed herbicides without stopping. As a result, my sons, I, and other farmers in the area were forced to abandon our work on our lands and crops due to the fear that we would inhale the harmful herbicide spray. Depending on the wind direction, the spayed herbicides can reach as far as 300-400 metres or more into our agricultural land. These harmful herbicides which the IOF spray on crops are aimed to keep the fence area completely visible to the Israeli troops. For military purposes, it makes the area open with no trees or crops grown. However, these herbicides completely damage our crops and affect the soil for an extended period of time. Therefore, we cannot cultivate the land any more. It causes hefty losses to us, reflecting negatively on the livelihoods of farmers’ families. To support our families, we do not have any source of income other than farming. On Wednesday morning, 15 January 2020, an Israeli airplane came back and sprayed harmful herbicides once again on the agricultural land along the fence. Consequently, I lost the spinach, chard, and lettuce crops, which were grown 200-300 metres away from the fence. According to examinations made by the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza, the herbicides also caused damage to other crops on the land. The Ministry staff forced me and other nearby land owners to sign a pledge, stating that we would not sell the damaged crops on the market or else we should be subjected to penal action.