1 August 2016
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement in partnership with Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza submitted a letter on 27 June 2016 seeking damages from the State of Israel on behalf of a Palestinian farmer in the Gaza Strip whose crops and lands were damaged by herbicide spraying conducted with Israeli aircraft, based on a decision of the Israeli Defense Ministry.
In the letter, which was sent to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, and Chief Military Advocate General Sharon Afek, Adalah and Gisha demand an investigation and just compensation to Khan Yunis-resident Ibrahim Abu Ta'aymeh for damages suffered.
From 11-13 October 2014, Israeli aircraft, in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, sprayed unknown herbicides on lands inside the Gaza Strip. Israel designates the areas 300 meters from the border fence as a “buffer zone” in which access is severely restricted In the incident in question, however, the herbicides reached a one-acre agricultural plot farmed by Abu Ta'aymeh located inside the Gaza Strip approximately 700 meters from the buffer zone.
Abu Ta'aymeh has been growing spinach on this plot, leased from Awad Muhammad Ahmad Asfour, for the past 12 years and the produce provides the sole source of income for the Abu Ta'aymeh family.
The aerial herbicide spraying by the Israeli military completely destroyed Abu Ta'aymeh's harvest, caused significant harm to the land itself, and potentially posed a threat to local residents. Abu Ta'aymeh's financial losses are estimated to be at least ₪11,400 (about US $2925). The long-term effects of the spraying on land and water resources are unknown and cannot be estimated at the present time.
The Israeli military's aerial spraying of herbicides constitutes a violation of both Israeli constitutional and administrative law, as well as of international humanitarian and human rights laws.
According to the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) and additional protocols (1977), parties to a conflict must protect civilians and humanitarian interests during wartime and occupation, must refrain from causing harm or damage to civilian targets such as agricultural lands, and must respect the right of protected civilians to access food. The Israeli military's spraying of herbicides on agricultural crops which serve as a basic food source, while also taking into account the ongoing closure of Gaza, constitutes a violation of Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Likewise, Article 43 of the Hague Convention (1907) provides that an occupying power, "shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety."
International law obligates states that violate international humanitarian and human rights law to take a number of steps, including: investigating the incident and prosecuting those found guilty of legal offenses; offering its victims fair and rapid remedy and reparations for damages caused; granting access to details on the methods by which the nature of such reparations are determined; recognition of and apology for damages caused; and assurances that the harmful acts will not reoccur.
The three organizations sent a further seven letters of complaint to the Israeli authorities on 5 July 2016 on behalf of additional Gaza landowners and farmers who also suffered from damages resulting from this same 2014 military herbicide spraying incident. The organizations are considering bringing further complaints on behalf of others affected.
The organizations demand that Israel investigate this incident adequately and compensate Abu Ta'aymeh and the other landowners and farmers for the damages they have suffered.
In a similar case brought by Adalah, the Israeli Supreme Court delivered a precedent-setting decision in April 2007 prohibiting the Israel Land Administration (ILA) from aerially spraying crops cultivated by Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev). In the decision, a unanimous three-justice panel ruled that these actions endanger human life and the health of the inhabitants of the unrecognized villages, and that using these measures humiliated and disrespected them. The Supreme Court also ordered the state to pay NIS 20,000 in legal fees. (See HCJ 2887/04, Saleem Abu Medeghem, et. al. v. Israel Lands Administration, et. al. (decision delivered 15 April 2007)
Supreme Court in Precedent-Setting Decision: Spraying Toxic Chemicals on Crops of Arab Bedouin Farmers in the Unrecognized Villages is Insensitive, Disrespectful and Endangers their Lives and Healthhttp://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/6807