Impact of White Phosphorus on South Lebanese Farmers: A Devastating Consequence

In the verdant landscapes of south Lebanon, where agriculture is a lifeline, a devastating consequence of recent cross-border clashes has emerged. Farmers returning to their villages amid an unofficial truce have been met with a disheartening sight – their once-thriving crops contaminated with white phosphorus, a highly toxic and flammable substance.

The impact on the agricultural heartland of south Lebanon is palpable. Farmers, heavily dependent on the land for their livelihoods, are grappling with the aftermath of Israeli attacks that occurred on October 16. Oday Abousari, a 29-year-old farmer from Dhayra, recounts the loss of his entire crop, emphasizing, “I can’t sell poison.” As he plucks leaves from a crumbling lettuce and points to cabbages with yellowish leaves, the economic toll on individual farmers becomes painfully evident.

The use of white phosphorus, a substance known for its extreme toxicity and banned for use against civilians under international law, has drawn condemnation from human rights groups. Calls for an international investigation into Israel’s deployment of white phosphorus during clashes with Hezbollah and other allies of Hamas since October 7 have intensified.

In a region already grappling with Lebanon’s economic crisis, the impact on farmers could be devastating. Many are just now discovering the extent of the damage as they return to their villages, having been forced to flee due to the outbreak of fighting. The potential long-term and short-term environmental impacts of white phosphorus munitions add another layer of concern. Environmental researcher Abbas Baalbaki highlights the unresearched nature of the substance’s effects due to its high toxicity and ban.

The damage goes beyond crops. Unexploded shells pose a direct threat to farmers attempting to resume their work, as exemplified in Wazzani, another border town where farmers wait for the army to remove dangerous remnants. The Ministry of Agriculture has issued recommendations for farmers, including washing fruits exposed to white phosphorus and coordinating with the Lebanese Army to report suspicious objects.

Amid this crisis, farmers express little hope for state assistance in crisis-hit Lebanon. Abdallah Gharib, the mayor of Dhayra, laments the absence of compensation or aid from the government, a sentiment echoed by many struggling to salvage what remains of their land and livelihoods.

As Lebanon files a complaint with the UN Security Council about Israel’s use of white phosphorus, the plight of south Lebanese farmers underscores the urgent need for international attention and assistance. The collateral damage to civilian livelihoods and the agricultural landscape poses a profound threat, demanding a concerted effort to address both immediate needs and long-term recovery.

#Lebanon #WhitePhosphorus #AgricultureCrisis #HumanRights #EnvironmentalImpact

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