PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Gazan farmers forced further away from Israeli buffer zone

In May 2009 the Israeli Army widened the buffer zone between Israel and the Gaza Strip, telling Gazans to keep 300 metres clear of the border. A local farmer there tells us that the no-go zone goes much further into Gazan territory than the supposed limit.

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Photo : Eva Bartlett.

In May 2009 the Israeli Army widened the buffer zone between Israel and the Gaza Strip, telling Gazans to keep 300 metres clear of the border. A local farmer there tells us that the no-go zone goes much further into Gazan territory than the supposed limit.

The barren buffer zone (dubbed "hot zone" by the Israeli authorities) was once home to olive groves and cornfields, but since 1995, almost 30% of Gaza's arable land has been confiscated to make way for the buffer's growing girth.

FRANCE 24 has asked the Israeli Army to respond to the following accounts. We'll update this post if we receive an answer. Our Israeli Observers are also welcome to send us their contributions on the subject.

“Stop shooting, we are unarmed civilians”

Israeli soldiers fire on farmers in Abassan Jedida, southeast of the Gaza Strip, February 2009. Video from the ISM.

“They ransacked my land and my crops”

Abu Nasser Abu Taima is a farmer from southeast Gaza.

On March 7th, four bulldozers, three tanks, and some army jeeps turned up and ransacked my land and my crops; olive trees, corn, courgettes and okra. They arrived without warning and for no apparent reason; my farm, which lies between the border and the Khan Younès area, is 700 metres from the buffer zone. 

They didn't open fire, perhaps because at the time a group of activists from the International Solidarity Movement had come to visit. The Israelis do what they want near the buffer zone. Nobody can stop them.

My land is the only thing I have left. The Israelis destroyed my farm in 2003, and then my house in the December 2008 war. I have a big family to look after and my land is my livelihood.

We're often shot at while we're working on the fields. In 2003, they even targeted my donkey, killing it. If they think they'll get rid of us like this, then they're wrong. We belong to this land and we'd rather die here than leave."

 

 

All photos by Eva Bartlett.

“This area was once known as the most bountiful in the Gaza Strip”

Eva Bartlett is a member of the pro-Palestinian activist organisation, the International Solidarity Movement. She writes the blog "In Gaza". She photographed Abu Taima's land after it was ransacked.

The creation of a 50-metre-wide buffer zone was agreed to as part of the security arrangements included in an interim Palestinian-Israeli agreement signed in 1995. Following the start of the second Intifada in September 2000, the area of the buffer zone was increased to 150 metres wide. In May 2009, the Israeli military scattered thousands of leaflets warning residents to maintain a distance of at least 300 metres from the border or risk being fired upon. In reality, however, the buffer zone can extend up to two kilometres (1.2 miles) at its widest point in North Gaza. [According to the UN, the buffer zone currently measures two kilometres in the north and 800 metres in the east.]

As a result, the area once known as the most bountiful in the Gaza Strip in terms of the families it supported or fed has become a no-man's land - a killing field where Palestinians have been targeted for venturing past the invisible, amorphous demarcation line - or sometimes, for simply being too close and rousing the Israelis' suspicions. Since the end of the Israeli military offensive in January 2009, the UN estimates that five civilians have been killed and 20 injured in incidents involving Israeli gun and tank fire in areas near the buffer zone. Three of the fatalities and at least four of the injured were children. [Since the start of the blockade in January 2008, the UN estimates that 33 Palestinian civilians have been killed, including 11 children, in the area bordering the buffer zone.]

Image posted here

Nearby residents of the buffer zone were informed of the extension by leaflets deposited by the Israeli Army in May 2009. “To the inhabitants of Gaza, a warning from the IDF: do not come any closer than 300 metres of the barrier. Anyone who crosses the limit will be in danger of the necessary measures the IDF will have to take to get rid of that person, including opening fire, if needed.”