Palestinians count cost of agricultural losses

Palestinian losses in agriculture in nearly two years of confrontations with Israel have reached one billion dollars, Palestinian Agricultural Minister Rafiq Natsheh said in the Ramallah- based al-Ayam daily on Monday.

According to Natsheh, the losses were due to tough Israeli measures, including closures and military incursions into Palestinian towns and villages.

“The Israeli army incursions and reoccupation of cities within the last two years had stopped the implementation of many funded projects in the field of agriculture,” said Natsheh.

Israeli policies “would lead to an agricultural and economic catastrophe in the Palestinian territories”, he warned.

Israeli closures and curfews have raised the rate of unemployment in the occupied territories to more than 50%, and brought the number of people living below the poverty line to 70%, he said.

The Israeli government had promised to ease some of the restrictions on Palestinian movement imposed since the Intifada (uprising) broke out in late September 2000.

“The current position of the agricultural field in the West Bank and Gaza Strip shows clearly that all the Israeli claims of easing the tough security measures are not true,” Natsheh said.

The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture announced on Sunday that the Israeli army had bulldozed about around 6,3 square kilometres of Palestinian agricultural territory in the Gaza Strip during nearly two years of the Intifada.

The Israeli army had also cut down 113 664 olive, citrus, guava and grape trees and destroyed 100 greenhouses in the Gaza Strip during the same period, the ministry said. - Sapa-DPA

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