A group of Israeli farmers plans to file a war crimes complaint at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Monday against Hamas over the torching of thousands of acres of farmland in recent months.
The farmers want prosecutors to investigate leaders of Hamas, the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, for allegedly issuing orders to Palestinians to breach the territory’s frontier with Israel and having supporters deliberately set fire to fields in southern Israel using incendiaries launched across the border on kites and balloons.
Over 7,000 acres of land were burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.
“What they are trying to do is to burn us, not just our fields. It’s a war crime and a crime against humanity,” farmer Ofer Lieberman told Israeli Army Radio ahead of his arrival at The Hague.
Gaza saw a surge of violence since the start of the “March of Return” protests along the border in March. The clashes, which Gaza’s Hamas rulers have orchestrated, have included rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli soldiers.
Since the protests began in March, 125 protesters have been killed by Israeli fire. The Hamas terror group, which seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members. During that time, a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli soldier.
During the demonstrations, protesters launched incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, sparking fires that destroyed forests, burned crops and killed livestock. Israel initially struggled with how to cope with the burning devices and later began targeting their launchers.
Israel says it is defending its border against attempts by Hamas to infiltrate and carry out attacks. But it has come under heavy international criticism over the large number of unarmed protesters who have been killed or wounded.
The violence has subsided over the past two weeks amid reports of Egyptian and UN efforts to broker a long-term truce.