Jul 20, 2016

In late December 2015, the IDF Spokesperson confirmed that aerial spraying of herbicides inside the Gaza Strip is conducted by the military, with the purpose of destroying vegetation near the Gaza perimeter fence.

On March 13, 2016 (Hebrew), Gisha contacted the Ministry of Defense Freedom of Information officer requesting information about how decisions to spray crops in the area are made, what preparations are made prior to spraying, what herbicides are used, what effect the spraying has and what is done to counter it. Gisha also asked whether any alternatives to spraying have been considered and whether farmers in Gaza and in Israel are notified prior to the spraying.

The request was made following complaints from Gaza farmers whose fields beyond the access restricted areas (“buffer zone”) and near it have been affected by the spraying, and due to concerns over potential harm to farmland on the Israeli side of the perimeter fence.

Our request remained unanswered. On April 11, 2016 (Hebrew) and again on June 1, 2016 (Hebrew), the Ministry of Defense notified Gisha that it needed more time owing to the “complexity” of the requested information. When the information was not provided after the 120-day period stipulated in the law, we filed an administrative petition (Hebrew) under the Freedom of Information Act, in which we asked the court to order the Ministry of Defense to provide the information requested.

The petition was filed together with a motion for an urgent hearing and an order instructing the Ministry of Defense to provide the response promptly. These motions were made with a view to shortening the additional time the ministry would be supplied with to provide a response to the petition (on top of the 120 days it had already received), thereby preventing it from benefitting from the breach of law it had already committed.