The Age of Extinction: ‘Ecocide in Gaza’

ENVIRONMENT, 8 Apr 2024

Kaamil Ahmed, Damien Gayle and Aseel Mousa | The Guardian – TRANSCEND Media Service

An Israeli tank passes wild flowers near Gaza’s border. The IDF carved new roads out of farmland when it invaded. With much of Gaza’s farms, greenhouses and orchards destroyed, many are asking if the population will be able to grow food any more. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty

Does Scale of Environmental Destruction Amount to a War Crime? Satellite analysis revealed to the Guardian shows farms devastated and nearly half of the territory’s trees razed. Alongside mounting air and water pollution, experts says Israel’s onslaught on Gaza’s ecosystems has made the area unlivable.

29 Mar 2024In a dilapidated warehouse in Rafah, Soha Abu Diab is living with her three young daughters and more than 20 other family members. They have no running water, no fuel and are surrounded by running sewage and waste piling up.

Like the rest of Gaza’s residents, they fear the air they breathe is heavy with pollutants and that the water carries disease. Beyond the city streets lie razed orchards and olive groves, and farmland destroyed by bombs and bulldozers.

“This life is not life,” says Abu Diab, who was displaced from Gaza City. “There is pollution everywhere – in the air, in the water we bathe in, in the water we drink, in the food we eat, in the area around us.”

For her family and thousands of others, the human cost of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, launched after the Hamas attack on 7 October, is being compounded by an environmental crisis.

The al-Naji family break their fast during Ramadan amid the ruins of their home in Deir al-Balah. Photograph: AFP/Getty

The full extent of the damage in Gaza has not yet been documented, but analysis of satellite imagery provided to the Guardian shows the destruction of about 38-48% of tree cover and farmland.

Olive groves and farms have been reduced to packed earth; soil and groundwater have been contaminated by munitions and toxins; the sea is choked with sewage and waste; the air polluted by smoke and particulate matter.

Researchers and environmental organisations say the destruction will have enormous effects on Gaza’s ecosystems and biodiversity. The scale and potential long-term impact of the damage have led to calls for it to be regarded as “ecocide” and investigated as a possible war crime.

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