As part of the operation, officials seized tools, equipment and 160 tons of wood, which is used for charcoal production, a statement from COGAT said.
In an effort to curb air pollution levels in the northern West Bank, the Civil Administration conducted an enforcement operation to shut down charcoal production in an Area B region on Thursday morning.

The decision to carry out the operation occurred following numerous attempts over the past few years to find solutions to the charcoal pollution, with the directive of Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories. Lacking any cooperation from the Palestinian side, the mission aimed to protect the environment and put an end to the ongoing pollution, according to COGAT.

As part of the operation, officials seized tools, equipment and 160 tons of wood, which is used for charcoal production, a statement from COGAT said.

Such enforcement activity is rare in Area B of the West Bank, where Israel retains security control, but civil affairs are handled by the PA.

“We are determined to take care of this charcoal hazard to public health, which harms both Israelis and Palestinians alike,” Mordechai said. “In addition to this enforcement, which began today, and will continue in the future, we intend to open a dialogue with the charcoal producers to find technological solutions to lower the risks of charcoal production for workers and residents.”

Reports published in recent years have indicated that 25% of children in the nearby Palestinian town of Ya’bad suffer from respiratory problems as a result of the charcoal production and that 70% of workers in the charcoal industry have either respiratory illnesses or cancer, the COGAT statement explained. In addition, a 2007 study conducted in Ya’bad showed that the number of deaths associated with respiratory diseases and cancer were significantly higher than in other villages, the statement added.

Not only has the charcoal burning impacted the Palestinian villages in the immediate region, but also the Israeli areas of Pardes-Hanna-Karkur and Menashe Regional Council across the Green Line, the Environmental Protection Ministry stressed.

While Palestinians have been producing the charcoal, Israelis are by no means blameless in the process. For years, Israeli farmers have been shipping their trimmed foliage to the PA’s charcoal businesses rather than disposing of them in an approved manner.

To solve the Israeli side of the problem, the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee approved regulations two weeks ago to prohibit the conveyance of such wood scraps to the West Bank. The regulations, which take effect in about a month, require Israeli farmers to pulverize their branches themselves or pay for their disposal at authorized sites.

“The confiscation of tree stumps is not the last step, but it is an important step,” said Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin, whose office promoted the regulations in conjunction with the Agriculture Ministry.

“We are committed to leading the charcoal production issue until the hazard is removed,” he added.

Both the operation on Thursday and the new regulations in Israel are part of a comprehensive plan, led by the Environment and Agriculture ministries, to put an end to the charcoal production in the region. Other efforts include incentives for farmers to purchase large wood pulverizers and a public appeal to establish an environmentally friendly charcoal plant. The Environment Ministry has also called for the construction of a plant to produce biomass pellets out of the tree scraps.