A Palestinian woman with her children picks strawberries in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip. Image Credit: AFP

Ramallah: Israel plans to spray harmful pesticides along its border with Gaza for the third year straight, according to the Gaza Ministry of Agriculture.

Palestinians say the action, which is slated to start at the beginning of the new year, will have a devastating impact on Gazan crops due to drifting winds.

“This action is extremely harmful and could even be fatal to our Gazan crops,” Younis Al Zaytonah, who heads the Agricultural Department in northern Gaza, announced in a statement.

Most farms are located on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli regime claims they are spraying to kill overgrown grass and weeds in the area in order to “improve visibility” for security purposes on its border with Gaza.

When Israel used light aeroplanes to spray last year, the fields located closest to the Gazan borders were severely affected.

The ministry noted that occupation forces use the pesticides without any kind of coordination or cooperation with Palestinian authorities in Gaza, which have lodged repeated complaints.

Certain international bodies have also been informed about the damage.

Although Israel is fully aware of the Gazan complaints, the ministry alleges that the occupation forces have ignored them.

The ministry, via the Red Cross, has supplied Israel with a comprehensive list of the farms closest to the borders, as well as the crops to be planted in those areas.

These crops are low-growing (no more than 30 centimetres from the ground), and therefore do not impact on visibility or the security of the borders.

Gazan farmers have been warned not to offer any of their spayed crops for sale at the local markets, as the pesticides used are extremely harmful.

They have also been advised by the ministry not to use the crops as fodder or foodstuff for animals.

The pesticides can linger in the soil for years.

Gaza has been under a crippling Israeli-imposed blockade since 2007 since Hamas came to power. It relies heavily on its home-grown produce.

Aside from bloody military assaults on Gaza, Palestinians accuse Israel of waging an economic war on the enclave as well.

A recent report by the United Nations warns that Gaza may become uninhabitable by 2020 if there is no improvement in the economic situation.

Unemployment among Gaza’s youth is estimated at 60 per cent.

Israel targets Gazan farmers and applies economic sanctions as collective punishment, making life extremely difficult for residents.