Halt comes after four-year long campaign by Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

Plane releases herbicides over crops, illustrative
Plane releases herbicides over crops, illustrative. (photo credit: PXHERE)


For the first time in five years Israel has not sprayed herbicides along the Gaza border, which was in the past carried out by the Defense Ministry in order to ensure troops have a clear line of sight into Hamas controlled coastal enclave.

The halt of spraying herbicides came following a four-year long legal campaign by human rights organizations Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

Israel has admitted to carrying out aerial spraying some 30 times between 2014 and 2018 which according to Haaretz destroyed 14,000 dunams (3,500 acres) of crops and fields over five years.

According to the human rights groups, the last time herbicides were sprayed took place in December, damaging numerous crops deep inside Gaza and harming the livelihood of farmers and herders in the impoverished coastal enclave.

In January the three organizations sent a letter to Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Military Advocate General Sharon Afek and the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit asking to put a stop to the practice.

According to +972, the three groups stated that the chemical which was being sprayed has been determined by the World Health Organization to be a carcinogen which is not meant to be used by aerial spraying due to the health risks and also the risk posed to nearby crops.

In response, Israel said that “special precautions are taken in order to minimize the reach of the chemical agents, and that the spraying is supervised and regulated.”

But, a report by London-based research agency Forensic Architecture found that while the commercial crop dusters hired by the Ministry of Defense operated on the Israeli side of the border fence, the winds carried the chemicals westward into the Strip “at damaging concentrations” and “causes indiscriminate damage” where “the effects are readily controllable, and the extent of damage on Palestinian farmland per spray is largely unpredictable.”

According to the report, “when effective drift control techniques are not applied, the Israeli army cannot mitigate the reach of the chemicals sprayed along Gazan farmland” and that “this ongoing military practice along the eastern border enacts a heavy price on Gaza’s farming community and the broader civilian population.”

The report, which examined spraying carried out in April 2017, found that herbicides sprayed  spread over 300 meters (985 feet) into the Strip.

“It is crucial that Israel commit to terminating the practice altogether in order to enable Gaza’s agriculture sector to develop and prosper,” the three groups said in a statement on Sunday, adding that “the aerial spraying infringes on fundamental human rights and violates Israeli and international law.”

As reported by The Jerusalem Post