(TotalConservative.com) – Southern Lebanon was home to 40,000 olive trees that have been destroyed in fires resulting from Israeli shelling as fighting there rages between Hezbollah and the Israeli military. The Lebanese agricultural minister said hundreds of square kilometers were torched, and centuries-old trees have been razed by the fires.
The Shi’ite militia Hezbollah and the Israeli military began exchanging fire in skirmishes following Hamas’s October 7th surprise attack on southern Israel.
Agricultural Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan said the trees had a spiritual significance, being handled down through familial lines for generations in some cases. He said Israel was using the chemical weapon white phosphorous to start the burns to destroy wooded areas Hezbollah militants might use as cover.
The Israeli military denied using white phosphorous, saying that their smoke-screen shells don’t possess the compound. He said that their white phosphorous weapons weren’t used for starting fires and claims to the contrary were “baseless.”
Hasan said his ministry has recorded over 130 fires in 60 towns and their immediate areas. He further elaborated that the olives hadn’t been harvested, meaning the overall crop yield for the season will be significantly reduced.
Mohammed el Husseini with the south Lebanon farmers syndicate indicated that the damage was so overwhelming, that the government couldn’t possibly cover the losses. The country has suffered a lagging economy and financial difficulties for years.
Dory Farah, an olive farmer from the village of Alma Alashaab which is close to the Lebanese/Israeli border, said that they lost trees that were 200 years old.
Hassan has asked the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization for aid to help the farmers and have an independent party review the damage. The olive crop makes up roughly 20% of the overall agricultural output of the small Middle Eastern nation. U.N. data further indicates the industry accounts for 7% of the country’s GDP. More than 110,000 people work in the olive industry in Lebanon.
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