World Jewish Congress urges U.N. to condemn Hamas for environmental crimes

"We hope that UNEP will join us in condemning this environmental warfare and will take all necessary measures to ensure that these illegal activities will be stopped immediately."

October 8, 2018 19:48
2 minute read.
The results of a fire started by an incendiary balloon over the Sukkot holiday, September 2018

The results of a fire started by an incendiary balloon in the Beeri forest, September 24, 2018. (photo credit: YOAV SAAD/KKL-JNF)


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The World Jewish Congress (WJC) submitted a petition with more than 22,00 signatures to the UN condemning Hamas's environmental crimes in southern Israel.

WJC Executive Director Robert Singer presented a petition to the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Jamal Ahmed, condemning Hamas for launching kites and incendiary balloons that have killed hundreds of animals and destroying farmland and forests.

In the petition, Singer stated that "Hamas is consistently committing crimes against the environment." He added that "the combined effect of these abominable actions over the past five months has killed thousands of animals, destroyed more than 33,000 hectares of farmland and forests, and released toxic substances into the fragile ecosystem."

"Local wildlife has been killed or forced to flee their habitats, forests and farmland have been destroyed and the livelihood of thousands of farmers who have devoted their lives to turning what used to be a desert into an oasis has been destroyed," he added.

Be'eri forest, located in the Besor region in the Gaza border, has been a target of incendiary balloons from Gaza. The forest, a nature reserve, is home to diverse vegetation native to Israel and rich wildlife. The forest is also known for the "Scarlet South Festival," when in the months of February and March the reserve is covered with a red carpet of the windflowers, anemone coronaria, one of the symbols of the blooming Negev desert in Israel and one of the largest attractions for economic tourism in the area.

While praising UNEP for its outstanding environmental protection activities, Singer called on Ahmed and his organization to join the World Jewish Congress and other signatories to condemn Hamas' environmental warfare.

"Since its inception in 1972, UNEP has done a great job in protecting ecosystems around the world from natural and intentional destruction, and we thank Mr. Ahmed and his organization very much for paying so much attention to the environment," Singer said. "We hope that UNEP will join us in condemning this environmental warfare and will take all necessary measures to ensure that these illegal activities will be stopped immediately. As Mr. Ahmed said, 'Animals have no passports.' We must do everything in our power to protect the environment from attack."

Singer stressed that international humanitarian law, protected by UN resolutions, explicitly prohibited the destruction of the natural environment in a war conflict. The international community, however, remained silent while Hamas engaged in environmental warfare that endangered civilians and wildlife and destroyed the natural beauty and resources of Israel's southern region.

"It is clear to all that Hamas deliberately caused environmental damage, which constitutes crimes against the environment."

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