Over the course of the past three months, Hamas operatives and other terrorists have burned thousands of tires and launched hundreds of incendiary devices into Israeli territory. The combined effect of these heinous acts has not only led to the release of toxic materials into the fragile ecosystem, but has resulted in the destruction of more than 7,400 acres of land, hundreds of acres of wheat fields, and 2,700 acres of protected nature reserves.
When these devices touch down in Israel they leave a deadly path in their wake. Local wildlife are either killed or forced to flee their native habitats. Forests and farmland have been ravaged. And the livelihood of the thousands of farmers who have committed their lives to turning what was once desert into an oasis has been shattered.
Thus far, 900 incendiary devices were sent across the border, leading to more than 750 fires –an average of eleven per day. Not only has the cost of damage exceeded $3 million, but it will take years to reverse the ecological damage caused by Hamas.
Both the United Nations Resolutions and International Humanitarian Law expressly prohibit the destruction of the natural environment in armed conflict, and yet the international community has remained silent as Hamas wages environmental warfare that endangers civilians, wildlife, and ravages the natural beauty and resources of Israel's southern region.
In May 2016, the Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme reaffirmed UN General Assembly resolution 47/37 entitled “Protection of the environment in armed conflict” which stressed “that destruction of the environment, not justified by military necessity and carried out wantonly, is clearly contrary to existing international law”.
Article 35 (3) of the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions states: “It is prohibited to employ methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross regards these obligations as customary international law. Based on the texts of these statutes, it is evident that Hamas has intentionally committed environmental damage, amounting to environmental war crimes.
Therefore, the World Jewish Congress calls on the UN Environmental Programme and Director Solheim to condemn these acts and use all necessary measures at their disposal to ensure that these illegal actions cease immediately.