Israeli Occupation Forces Continue to destroy Palestine’s Environment and Natural Resources
The Union of Agricultural Work Committees asserts that the brutal attack carried out by the Israeli occupation forces on Wednesday, 3/7/2019, on the natural reserve/ rangeland area in Umm al-Kheir, the uprooting of approximately 3000 trees, and removing 500 meters of the fence surrounding the reserve is an attack on Palestinians and their land. It represents an attack on biodiversity as well, for which it is an unforgivable crime.
The natural reserve/ rangeland area is mainly utilized by sheep herders residing in the two largest Bedouin communities in the east of Hebron, namely the "Al-Hathalin" and the "An-Najada”, who have a total 10,000 sheep. Since this area is exposed to extreme heat and drought due to climate change, planting and reviving the natural reserve constitutes a vital agricultural model that promotes climate justice and nature conservation. In addition, the reserve provides optimal conditions for the growth of pastoral plants, thereby providing a suitable habitat for various pastoral animals as well. For instance, during the past 15 years, the reserve served as a tool for environmental protection by conserving flora and fauna biodiversity, as there are more than 70 species of wild plants, a large variety of bird species, wild fauna, as well as some raptors.
In addition to the tragic environmental impacts of trees' uprooting and destroying the reserve, residents relying on the reserve have become economically vulnerable. Establishing the natural reserve has helped alleviate poverty in the region, as plants in the reserve are used as feed by residents - whose sole source of livelihood is from sheep grazing - and have thus led to reducing their cost of production and increase their profitability as a result. There is also concern that the children's park in the reserve, established in 2014, may be attacked, as it is the only open space for children in the area.
Furthermore, UAWC reported that on 11/6/2019, Israeli forces invaded agricultural land planted with thyme and sage crops, destroyed crops, removed the fence, destroyed the water pipes and reservoirs, bearing in mind that these crops are sold to charities that benefit many citizens.
UAWC reported another recent incident (4/7/2019) in which the Israeli occupation forces attacked the area of al-Dqiqa, 2.5 km from Umm al-Khair. This attack is a clear indication of Israel’s efforts to destroy Palestinian natural reserve/ rangeland area and destroy biodiversity in the region.
UAWC urgently calls upon concerned institutions and the international community working in the development sector to immediately intervene in order to prohibit further pillage of the natural resources . It affirms that this is a blatant violation of the farmers’ rights to a decent life, as a violation of their right is a violation of the Geneva Convention (IV), which states the following:
· Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly states that “no protected person may be punished for an offence that he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”
· Article 53: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”
** Listen to one of the farmers from Um Alkheir area: