Israel Shuts Down PA Charcoal Operation Over Pollution

YERUSHALAYIM -
Palestinian workers extract charcoal from sand at the production facility, east of the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza City, Gaza Strip March 21, 2014. Photo by emad nassar/FLASH90
Palestinian workers extract charcoal from sand at the production facility, east of the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza City, Gaza Strip, in this 2014 file photo. (Emad Nassar/Flash90)

Israeli environmental officials on Thursday confiscated equipment and raw materials used by Palestinians to produce charcoal, shutting down a production facility because of the pollution it caused. For the first time, officials closed down a facility located in Area B, under Palestinian Authority civilian control.

IDF Gen. Yoav Mordechai announced several weeks ago his intention to enforce environmental rules in Yehudah and Shomron, starting with the charcoal plants. Famous for its high quality charcoal, many Arab towns in Israel and Palestinian Authority controlled areas subsist largely on production of briquets for barbecues and home heating. Unfortunately, their products are built on mass denuding of forests planted by organizations like the Jewish National Fund over many years, and the production by-products pollute many of the streams flowing from the Shomron Hills to the coastal plain.

Earlier in November, the Knesset Interior and Environmental Protection Committe authorized new rules requiring licenses to cut down trees or to transport cut trees. The licenses will allow authorities to inspect the size of shipments and ensure that trees were not cut down illegally for use in illegal Palestinian production facilities for charcoal. Most at risk nowadays are forests in the Pardes Hannah and Binyamina areas, after depletion of many forests in the Umm el-Faham area, officials said.

In Thursday’s action, officials of the Civilian Administration seized production equipment and 160 tons of trees and lumber. Mordechai praised the action, saying that more would take place in the future unless the PA itself took action to shut them down.