The World Jewish Congress submitted a petition containing 22,000 signatures to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), calling on the body to condemn “this environmental warfare” carried out by Hamas and to “take all necessary measures to ensure that these illegal activities will be stopped immediately,” The Jerusalem Post reported Monday.
Robert Singer, the Executive Director of the WJC, presented the petition to Deputy Executive Director of the UNEP Jamal Ahmed condemning Hamas’s tactics of launching incendiary kites and other flying objects into Israel burning forests, farmland, and killing animals and wildlife.
The petition accused Hamas, the terror group that exercises complete political and military control over the Gaza Strip, of “consistently committing crimes against the environment.” The petition stated further 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.”
The petition continued, “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.”
The Be’eri forest, which, according to the Post, “is home to diverse vegetation native to Israel and rich wildlife,” has been targeted by the arson attacks.
Singer praised UNEP and Ahmed for doing “a great job in protecting ecosystems around the world from natural and intentional destruction,” and called on them to “join us in condemning this environmental warfare and will take all necessary measures to ensure that these illegal activities will be stopped immediately.”
In its statement about the petition the WJC observed, “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.’ Customary international law prohibits employing 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 Hamas-led riots, dubbed the Great March of Return, along the border with Israel began in late March, but have picked up in intensity in recent weeks. Thousands of rioters protested near Israel on Monday, The Times of Israel reported, and some of them attempted to tear down the border fence. The Times attributed the increased violence to the stalled talks on providing aid to Gaza.
The riots, even early on, have presented threats to the environment. Hamas called on rioters on the second week of the march to burn tens of thousands of tires to create a smokescreen. Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories then wrote to the World Health Organization warning of the “ecological catastrophe” the burning of so many tires would cause.
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]