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The High Court of Justice on Sunday ruled that the Israel Lands Administration is not allowed to spray chemicals on land farmed by Bedouin, a practice carried out in a bid to prevent the Bedouin from controlling those areas.

Justices Salim Joubran, Edna Arbel and Miriam Naor ruled that the spraying is not a proportionate means of achieving the stated goal because the chemicals endanger the lives and health of people and animals.

The court also required the state to pay NIS 20,000 in legal expenses to the Adala legal center for Arab rights in Israel, which filed the petition three years ago on behalf of the residents of the Negev villages of Al-Arakib and Wadi al-Bakar.

"Incursion into state land is indeed an illegal act," wrote Joubran. "And at the same time, coping with the phenomenon by aerial spraying is illegal."

Joubran said Israel's flora protection law was aimed at protecting health, sanitation and the environment, saying: "It is inconceivable that an authority would spray crops with a chemical substance to enforce the rights it claims to the land."

Although Arbel and Naor agreed with Joubran's conclusion that the ILA must stop spraying the land, they disagreed with his contention that the land administration did not have the right to do so in the first place.

As the landowner, wrote Arbel, the state is allowed to take steps to cope with a takeover of that land.

However, she said, the court is unable to accept that the spraying does not pose a health risk.

She said the chemicals' ability to cause breathing difficulties, nausea and vertigo are sufficient "to determine that the spray substance is liable, at the very least, to lead to damage to human health."

Arbel and Naor ruled that even though the spraying was carried out for the appropriate purpose of safeguarding state land, the method used was disproportionate and therefore unacceptable.