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Avian flu outbreak prompts West Bank chicken cull

Caged chickens for purchase in a poultry shop, Cairo, Egypt, 16 February 2007. Egypt is a major route for migratory birds and is one of the countries worst hit by the bird flu virus outside Asia.
Victoria Hazou/IRIN

Animal cases of avian flu in Bala village in the Tul Karem area of the West Bank, northeast of Tel Aviv, have been confirmed, and some 250,000 chickens culled, according to officials.



Bala is a major egg and poultry-producing area and part of its produce is smuggled into Israel due to higher prices there, according to Israeli Agriculture Ministry officials.



''We are always on the lookout for poultry and eggs smuggled into Israel from the Palestinian Authority [PA] but now we are tightening supervision at the PA-Israel crossings,“ the spokesperson’s unit at the Israeli Health Ministry told IRIN.



Israeli veterinary services assisted the PA by transferring the drugs needed for the culling, said Shalom Simchon, Israel’s minister of agriculture, and he called on international organizations to compensate Palestinian farmers for their huge losses. PA forces surrounded Bala to prevent smuggling of poultry during the culling.



Cases of avian flu were also confirmed in Kibbutz Ein Gedi in Israel, on the Dead Sea shore, on 7 May in a zoo; all birds were culled and the Israeli Agriculture Ministry is closely monitoring the area. Under international law, Israel is obliged to cease exports of poultry and poultry products for one month following the discovery of avian flu. Animal avian flu cases have been discovered three times in Israel since 2006. In all cases birds were culled and no human casualties reported.



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