Agricultural fields in eastern Gaza Strip are polluted by Israeli chemicals
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine) Gaza
A few days prior to the low pressure front in mid last January, the farmer Abdul-Kareem Habeeb promised his children to organize a recreational trip once he harvests the legumes crop from his land, but the Israeli Authorities opened the rainwater collecting dams, drowning his land and crops, which is his and his family’s only source of income; thus thwarting all hopes of a profitable season.
During mid last January, the Israeli Authorities opened, for three times, the dams and the water storing tanks near the eastern Gaza border. Habeeb’s crops were damaged, as well as those of tens of other fellow farmers of his, according to the Ministry of Agriculture in the densely populated coastal sector.
Habeeb owns 12 dunums east of Gaza city. He was about to harvest the cauliflowers, cabbages, fava beans, and the turnip, but all that became a thing from the past when his field was turned into a quagmire. The wheat and the barley which Habeeb (52) sowed a few weeks ago, were also washed away clean.
"The occupation destroyed everything here and turned my life into hell", the 50-year-old man tells Environment and Development Horizons. "My family also will face hard times in the coming months, because this field is our only source of income; from which I have provided everything for my family," adds the man with his feet plunging deep in the field.
For the past two decades, the Israeli Authorities persisted on disposing excess rainwater by discharging it into the Gaza Strip without prior coordination; a step aimed towards dissertation of the border area with Gaza Strip. Moreover, the authorities have been spraying from the air the fields near the borders with lethal pesticides.
Three human rights organizations, active in the Palestinian Territories occupied in 1967 and Israel, accused the Israeli Authorities of deliberately destroying and poisoning Palestinian crops, which threatens the lives of two million Palestinians living in the 360-square-kilometer strip.
According to these three organizations, before the year 2000, lands included rainwater stores to control rainwater. However, after the Israelis fattened those stores, the Strip became an area without water drainage, and is now subject to floods every time Israel opens the dams that itself built to prevent water from reaching to the fields of the Gaza Strip.
Farmer Ghassan Khalil, whose farm was destroyed with rainwater floods caused by the Israeli authorities, says “they are fighting farmers in all fatal and destructive ways”. Khalil (49 years) clarifies that his field, which is 17 dunums in area, was subjected to sprayed pesticides by Israeli airplanes on the 14th and the 15th of January, and prior to flooding it with rainwater.
According to Habeeb, spraying pesticides is usually preceded by Israeli soldiers burning tires to determine the direction of the wind. He explains that he’s suffering losses exceeding 17 thousand Israeli Shekel (around 5 thousand USD).
Agricultural expert Eng. Nizar Al-Whedi says that spraying pesticides is a known fact, that can’t be covered by the lies on Israeli websites, and cannot be comprehended or justified by a sane person. Such incidents take place 3 times a year on average, at least, occurring in autumn, winter, and summer, above planted Palestinian lands, just before harvesting time.
Al-Whedi points out that spraying pesticides causes poisoning and loss of crops, facts that are documented at the ministries of health, agriculture, and economy, as well as the Environmental Authority, and is known to international organizations.
The agricultural expert wonders: “why are pesticides sprayed, even though the crops are planted in our lands? I mean inside the fence that engulfs Gaza. And why are the pesticides sprayed only in the morning time, when the wind’s direction is east to west? The answer most certainly is to ensure that the pesticides reach all our lands and houses, without reaching their farms”.
Translated by: Carol Khoury