• Beirut

  • Monday, January 15, 2024 at 6:20 AM
    Last Update : Monday, January 15, 2024 at 6:21 AM

50,000 Ancient Olive Trees Burned by Israel, Lebanon’s Agriculture Minister Tells AWP

(AWP) - The Minister of Agriculture in Lebanon’s caretaker cabinet, Abbas al-Hajj Hassan, has accused Israel of burning down large swathes of farmland in South Lebanon, estimated at thousands of hectares, in its raids on Lebanese territory, coinciding with the war it has conducted in the Gaza Strip since October 7.

In an interview with the Arab World Press (AWP), Hassan revealed that the government has notified the United Nations about Lebanon’s losses in the agricultural sector as a result of the Israeli bombardment, which set 50,000 300-year-old olive trees ablaze.

The minister said that accurate statistics of the losses are not currently possible, due to the sustained Israeli attacks.

“This is a purely barbaric war. The losses cannot even be estimated due to the sustained bombing attacks. We face threats to our lives and the lives of our employees and field workers in South Lebanon. The surveys are being conducted remotely,” he said.

“Our initial estimates so far are that thousands of hectares have been completely burned down as a result of Israel using internationally-banned white phosphorus in their bombing raids. Israel, this enemy, is only bombing those areas to burn them down. They believe burning them will remove any green belts, and that consequently, the lands will become open,” he noted.

“The losses are no less than 50,000 olive trees, including ancient ones that are 250-300 years old. It will be hard to compensate the people who grew up under these olive trees, like their ancestors did before. It is more than a sheer economic matter, it is also a social and historical one,” the minister said.

Hassan pointed out, “We surveyed dozens of farms that have been completely destroyed; tens of thousands of goats, sheep, cows and birds have perished. The decimated farmlands started from al-Labouna on the sea, stretching to the Shebaa Farms.”

The Lebanese official expressed a wish that his country’s agricultural products would have access to the Gulf markets once again.

“We hope our products can return to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf states as soon as possible. This wish, however, has to do with actions and steps we take to enhance confidence with Saudi Arabia in the agricultural sector, and with the Qatari, UAE and Bahraini brothers as well,” he said.

“The days ahead will hopefully remove this gloomy atmosphere. They may end well, relations can get back to normal gradually, and the Lebanese commodities can return to the Saudi, Kuwaiti and Bahraini markets,” added Hassan.