Although air-quality results showed minimal damage on Israel’s side of the border, Friday’s Gaza tires protest will have a long-term effect, an environmentalist said.
“When tires go up in smoke, their pollutants don’t just disappear,” Rabbi Yonatan Neril, founder and executive director of the Israel-based environmental group Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, told The Jerusalem Post. “Gazans burning thousands of tires on the Gaza border releases these pollutants into the air, water and land. It presents a health risk to Gazans, nearby Israelis, the animals and birds that inhabit the ecosystem and those that eat the fruits and vegetables harvested from the agricultural fields near Gaza. “While the Environment Ministry stated that the winds didn’t blow the smoke to threaten nearby Israeli communities, nature knows no boundaries. Unless we are able to manage human conflict, large numbers of people, animals, and birds will be impacted by the fighting in Gaza.”He said the effects of the burning tires are harmful towards Gazans, the animals and immediate surroundings of the protest themselves.“Tires are one of the most toxic things to burn, and their smoke contains hazardous air pollutants like dioxins and metals including arsenic and mercury,” he said.The second round of protests last Friday saw several hundred tires set ablaze at five different points along the Israel-Gaza border. Using burning tires was intended to create a thick cloud of black smoke to obstruct the vision of Israeli soldiers so that protesters could penetrate the border.In a statement released on Friday following the protest, the Environment Ministry said it “has been monitoring the air quality at various points along the Israel-Gaza border since the morning hours.These observations were carried out in locations including Nahal Oz, Kfar Aza and Kibbutz Mefalsim and all of the data show minimal contamination in the air particles that were collected.“Even the meteorological conditions today (Friday) did not enable the smoke from the area of the protests on the border to spread significantly in the direction of these locations within Israel.Therefore, no special precautions were issued to the population.”Yet Yosef Abramowitz, named by CNN as one of the six leading Green Pioneers worldwide, told the Post that “teaching hate is the real poison, but burning tires is an environmentally toxic act that all green activists, regardless of politics, should condemn.”
Palestinians take part in protests for the "Great March of Return" in Gaza (credit: Reuters)