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Israeli forces spray weed killers near Gaza border, burn Palestinian crops

Jan. 24, 2017 7:08 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 25, 2017 4:09 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli aircraft flew over the border area between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, spraying Palestinian farmlands with weed killers, according to local and official Palestinian sources.

One Gazan farmer called Abu Ahmad told Ma’an that Israeli aircraft sprayed fields on the Palestinian side of the “buffer zone” in southern Gaza on the outskirts of the Khan Yunis district.

According to Abu Ahmad, Israeli forces spray weed killers to dry wild plants on both sides of the border fence in order to “guarantee clear vision for the Israeli army to watch the area and prevent entry of Palestinians into Israel.”

He highlighted that the spray travels “dozens of meters” throughout the air away from the targeted area, causing serious damages to Palestinian crops far beyond the buffer zone. The affected areas, he said, are suitable for seasonal crops such as spinach, broad beans foul, wheat, and barley.

Agronomist Wael Thabit of the Gaza Ministry of Agriculture told Ma’an that two years ago, the ministry had asked several international human rights groups to intervene and ask Israel to stop spraying weed killers near the border area.

"[The Israeli] occupation didn't respond positively and claimed that the process is meant to get rid of wild plants and weeds."

Reiterating Abu Ahmad’s point, Thabit said that the excess spray can travel up to 1,200 meters through the air away from the buffer zone, burning crops and causing farmers huge economic losses.

Thabit added that the farmlands near the border area constitute about one third of the agricultural space in the besieged coastal enclave.

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports.

Palestinians who live and work near the unilaterally declared “buffer zone” between the Palestinian enclave and Israel also often come under fire from military forces, as the Israeli military has not made clear the precise area of the designated zone.

The practice has in effect destroyed much of the agricultural sector of the blockaded coastal enclave.

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