In 2008, Israeli army launched a massive operation aimed at the Negev desert, on the last frontier of southern Israel. Many villages “unrecognized” were destroyed, hundreds of families were displaced and Israel launched broad-spectrum herbicides to prevent people from returning their homes. A paramilitary unit of the Ministry of Agriculture direct the “Green Patrol”action.
That wasn’t the first time these systems have been used as weapons. The United States of America, in the sixties, sprayed large areas of Vietnam with the infamous Agent Orange, to remove the leaves and depriving Vietcong of vegetation cover. After the end of the war, the consequences of this decision were clear: thousands of Vietnamese had cancer because of Agent Orange, and there was a scary number of deformed babies.
In recent days, Israel decided to use again this ‘”unconventional weapon” in the conflict with Palestine. Israeli airplanes sprayed herbicides and defoliants on hundreds of hectares of farmland in the eastern Gaza, near the boundary lines. “It is a disaster for hundreds of farming families and we do not know the effects that these chemicals may have on the people of Gaza,” said Khalil Shahin, deputy director of the Center for Human Rights. “It is not the first time that happens, the Israeli army claims that destroying the vegetation prevent rocket launches and other attacks” Shahin added, “but in recent years this spraying was limited to a few neighboring land to the border fences. In recent days, instead, Israeli planes have gone deep for many hundreds of meters. In some cases the liquid, driven by the wind, got up to two kilometers away from the border, close to the residential areas of Gaza.”
Israeli authorities admitted they allowed the use of herbicides and anti-sprouting: “The aerial spraying of herbicides, anti-sprouting products and was conducted in the area along the border fence [in Gaza] last week, in order to allow the optimal operations and continuous security, “he reports a representative Defense Forces (IDF), Israeli, Reuters reported. The Israeli army said that the crops have been sprayed with herbicides “to prevent the concealment of IEDs [improvised explosive devices], and to stop and prevent the use of the area for destructive purposes,” reported Anadolu agency, citing a written statement of the IDF.
The consequences of these military actions are manifested in two ways. The immediate is the destruction of fields and crops: in the areas of Qarara and Wadi al Salqa, hundreds of families along the border, the most fertile of the Gaza Strip, had to abandon their fields. In recent days, tons of tomatoes from the fields in this area, have been returned to the sender by the Israelis, officially because, according to the version provided by the military authorities, had been added illegally to a load of other vegetables. Palestinian sources (not confirmed by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture) reported a different motivation: high concentrations of pesticides, used improperly, therefore dangerous to health. The other consequence is people health damage.
According to data from OCHA, the Office for the coordination of humanitarian activities of the UN, in 2015, the Israeli authorities have destroyed “for lack of permit” more than 500 Palestinian buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Since 2007, the Gaza Strip and its 1.9 million inhabitants live in a ‘double bind’: on the one hand and on the other by Israel from Egypt.
After Vietnam war, in 1978, the international community signed a Convention which prohibits or severely restricts the use of herbicides during conflicts, given the devastating effects they have on people. But Israel has ever signed this agreement.