Lebanese PM declares agricultural disaster in south Lebanon

Najib Mikati says 75 per cent of farmers in the south have lost their source of income

A garden burnt by white phosphorus in Dhayra, south Lebanon. Nada Atallah / The National
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Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati has declared the agricultural situation in the south of the country is a disaster because daily Israeli attacks have destroyed most of the farmland.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Mr Mikati said 800 hectares of farmland had been severely damaged while 75 per cent of farmers in the south had lost their source of income. The agricultural sector is a vital economic source for south Lebanon.

Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan last month said the Israeli attacks were preventing farmers in villages and towns near the border from reaching their fields, affecting up to 30 per cent of Lebanon's agricultural output.

Israel has been accused by Human Rights Watch of the "unlawfully indiscriminate" use of white phosphorus in many of its cross-border attacks.

The Prime Minister condemned “Israeli aggression” that he said had caused “massive destruction” in south Lebanon, the impact of which would be felt for years to come.

Mr Mikati told ministers about 100,000 people have been displaced from south Lebanon, with 75 schools closed as a result of the fighting.

He said he had held talks with UN organisations to request “rapid assistance” to affected areas in the south.

Israel and Lebanese armed group Hezbollah have been engaging in near daily cross-border exchanges of fire since October 8. Those attacks, which have largely been contained to the border region, have gradually increased in their intensity and scope, leading to fears of an all-out war.

US envoy Amos Hochstein was recently in Beirut in a bid to arrange a ceasefire at the Lebanon-Israel border and find an agreement on contested border points. Among the Israeli demands are that Hezbollah withdraws its fighters north of the Litani river, a demand the Iran-backed group has rejected.

Hezbollah says it is carrying out attacks in support of its embattled ally Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas launched an unprecedented and deadly raid on October 7 in southern Israel. Israel's response has been devastating, destroying much of Gaza and killing more than 33,000 people.

Israel has used white phosphorus, a highly toxic and flammable substance which has contaminated crops in south Lebanon. Farmers have also reported discovering dangerous unexploded devices on their lands.

White phosphorus is a toxic chemical that can cause respiratory damage and organ failure when inhaled, as well as extreme burns when it comes into contact with the skin.

Its use is highly regulated and using it against civilians is banned under the international convention.

Updated: April 05, 2024, 1:32 PM