2024April 2024International News

Ecocide & Genocide, Israels Amounting War Crimes

Samira Ali

Staff Writer

Embed from Getty Images

May 7 marks eight months since the onset of the unprecedented Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which has now escalated into a genocide. While the primary focus remains on the trauma and suffering brought upon Palestinians, it is imperative to acknowledge the environmental devastation the war has caused, as it is inseparable from the humanitarian disaster and daily life in Gaza. The scale and potential long-term impact of the damage have prompted demands to recognize the dire situation as not just a genocide, but also an ecocide and to be investigated as a war crime. These concerns have now encouraged the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), led by Dr. Nisreen Tamimi, the Environment Quality Authority Chairperson of the State of Palestine, to initiate an environmental impact assessment, reports EuroNews Green

Among the humanitarian atrocities the Palestinian people will face in the coming decades, environmental degradation is the most grave and certain. The ongoing bombardment and war have accelerated this truth. In the first two months of the war alone, there were more greenhouse gas emissions generated than the annual footprint of more than 20 of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations,  The Guardian found. This amounted to 281,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to burning 150,000 tonnes of coal. These emissions were directly derived from Israel’s fleet of military aircraft, tanks, vehicles, bombs, artillery, and rockets.  On the other hand, during the same 60-day period, Hamas rockets generated a mere 713 tonnes of CO2 emissions in comparison, underscoring the inequalities of each side’s military capabilities, reports The Guardian. In total, the first 60 days of the conflict have generated more emissions than the annual CO2 emissions of Belize and the Central African Republic. The Guardian’s Nina Lakhani reports that the true carbon metrics could be five to eight times higher if the entire military supply chain was considered in these reports. 

As a result of the ongoing barrage, satellite imagery has revealed widespread devastation across Gaza. Approximately 1,740 hectares, equivalent to 4,300 acres of land, have been cleared, indicating that nearly 50 to 60 percent of buildings have either been destroyed or heavily damaged. Additionally, 38 to 48 percent of Gazan tree cover and farmland have been completely demolished. The Guardian also reports the widespread destruction has also reached more than 7,500 greenhouses, which are integral components of Palestinian agricultural infrastructure, exhibiting a significant loss for the agricultural sector of the State of Palestine. Consequently, Gazans have been forced to cut down trees for cooking and heating to combat food and fuel shortages. 

Further, since the beginning of the war, strategic attacks on Gaza desalination plants have put these structures out of commission and led to cut-off access to aquifers, dropping Gaza’s water production capacity to a mere 5 percent of its already weak typical levels, reports Inside Climate News. Worse, all of Gaza’s wastewater plants have been without power since November, leaving sewage to circulate throughout the streets. The free passage of sewage water in Gaza heightens health concerns as it promotes the perfect environment for the rampant spread of disease. According to Al Jazeera, if rain mixes with contaminated wastewater, the risks of cholera and other gastrointestinal diseases will be astronomical. Since October, 130,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage have seeped into the Mediterranean Sea each day. Yet, even before the onset of the war, Gaza suffered from an inadequate sanitation infrastructure, where sewage water was often dumped into the sea, and was responsible for a quarter of illnesses. This was also the primary cause of child morbidity, and with the current sanitation system completely shut down, illnesses and child morbidity are expected to hit record-breaking highs. 

The full extent of the environmental damage caused in Gaza has yet to be comprehensively calculated. However, the predictions and metrics already available foreshadow a bleak future. The remnants of military debris and the contamination of soil, earth, sea, and the bodies of the Palestinian people will persist for generations. Even after the cessation of the war, the reconstruction of Gaza is poised to result in further environmental degradation. Nonetheless, Palestinians are no strangers to environmental injustices, as limited access to agricultural lands and water has been a significant driver in the generations-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict perpetuated by Israel’s authoritarian control of these resources, according to TIME. As Gazans grapple with the aftermath of the unprecedented environmental destruction, the resilience of the Palestinian people amid these hardships exposes the urgent need for international attention and support. 

Image courtesy of Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share This