Israel’s military has confirmed reports that it destroyed Gazan agricultural crops near the security fence with Israel.
The Israeli military told Anadolu Agency in a written statement Thursday that it sprayed a herbicide that “will cause the surrounding vegetation to wilt and prevent its growth.”
They Israeli military also claimed the reason for spraying the crops was “to prevent the concealment of IED's [Improvised Explosive Devices], and to disrupt and prevent the use of the area for destructive purposes.”
The confirmation came after Palestinian farmers near the border complained last week that for several days Israeli jets had flown over and sprayed a substance that was destroying their crops.
The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza told Anadolu Agency last week that around 3,000 square meters of crops were destroyed.
An uptick in violence since October, that has killed 142 Palestinians and 25 Israelis or foreigners, has mostly focused on occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank but there have also been a number of incidents near the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel.
At least 20 Gazans have died after being shot by Israeli soldiers during protests near the boundary. Israel has also reported cases of gunfire toward military patrols coming from Gaza and explosives being placed near the fence.
Palestinian news agency Ma'an had twice in December reported incidents of Gazan farmers being shot by Israeli soldiers while working land near the border.
Gaza, which has been ruled by Palestinian resistance movement Hamas since 2007, lacks basic infrastructure and is subject to an Egyptian-Israeli blockade.
Since the 2013 coup against Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, Egyptian authorities have kept the Rafah border crossing -- Gaza's only gate to the outside world that is not under Israeli control -- tightly sealed.
The ongoing closure of the crossing has served to deprive the Gaza Strip’s roughly 1.9 million inhabitants of vital commodities, including food, fuel and medicine.