Friday, October 24, 2008

Israeli forces shoot at farmers ‘buffer zone’ in Gaza

Posted on the ISM webpage on: October 24, 2008

This is a compilation report of various times ISM Gaza Strip volunteers have spent with farmers in Al-Faraheen Abasan Al-Kabeera, near Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Palestine

There is a “Buffer Zone”, declared by the Israeli occupation force army, along the entire eastern “border” of the Gaza Strip. Entire farms within 300 to 500 meters distance inside this “Buffer Zone” have been destroyed by Israeli occupation force soldiers in the past few years, since 2005. On 27th and 28th April and 1st May 2008 the Israeli occupation force soldiers invaded Al-Faraheen Abasan Al-Kabeera and bulldozed many farms and demolished some houses. During these incursions all the trees, crops, irrigation pipes, and hot houses were bulldozed into the ground. Rich agricultural farm land turned into desert. Olive trees decades old, citrus trees, date trees and many crops of tomatoes, eggplant, chili peppers, green peppers, okra, carrots, lettuce, etc, providing livelihood and food for the families of the Gaza Strip gone. In addition, chicken farms and herds of sheep and other animals were killed by the soldiers too. The destruction of these farms has made many families totally dependent on food aid and has turned the farmers penniless. Most if not all of the farmers cannot access their land and they can’t graze their herds, but must feed them grains, which is not suitable food source for animals that should be grazing. The farmers will be shot at if not shot and killed if they attempt to just go to their land.

Some ISM volunteers have spent time with one family living in Al-Faraheen Abasan Al-Kabeera. They usually arrive during the day to establish an international presence and stay the night too. They are there as witnesses to the human rights violations by the Israeli occupation force soldiers. During these times other farmers have approached the volunteers to inform them of their losses inflicted upon them by the various invasions of the Israeli soldiers.

On Friday 24th October, at 9:00am, in the Al-Faraheen Abasan Al-Kabeera area at Israeli occupation force soldiers shot at one woman and two men who were working on their farm outside of the “Buffer Zone”, they were more than 300 meters from the border fence. Then at 10:00am a farmer was working his land in the “Buffer Zone”. One jeep drove to the fence marking the “border” that Israel established, a soldier got out and fired two shots, then another five shots. The farmer left the field and the work he was doing and went back to his house. He waited twenty minutes and then came out of his house to return to work his land. This time the soldier in the one jeep fired many shots. The farmer stopped working his land for the day and went back home. Later on, another jeep drove to the fence northeast of the previous location, and fired lots of shots, maybe 50. Why would soldiers shoot into an agricultural field while farmers work their land? Why would soldiers shoot 50 shots into an agricultural field
while nobody is there?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

ISM Gaza: ‘Please let farmers in your communities know what is happening to the Palestinian farmers here in the Gaza Strip’

Posted on the ISM webpage on: October 18, 2008

On Tuesday morning, 14th October at around 09:30, two of the Human Rights Observers (HROs), who had spent the night at a house close to the
Green Line in the ‘buffer zone’ in Al-Faraheen, put on florescent yellow vests with reflective tape. They walked out in the demolished fields of olive, citrus, and guava trees surrounding the house. They walked in the direction of the Green Line closest to the house. Less than 250 meters from the house and more than 300 meters from the fence the two HROs sat on cement blocks left from a house or well demolition by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) soldiers on 1st May 2008.

They sat and looked out at the demolished fields and chatted. About twenty minutes later, around 10:00, they observed an IOF jeep on the road. The jeep parked next to another jeep. IOF soldiers got out and stood on the jeep. Shots were then fired by the IOF soldiers. The HROs stood facing the IOF soldiers.

One of the HROs stood with hands and arms raised as if asking “Why are you firing?”, “What are you shooting at?”. The IOF soldiers fired shots three or four times over a span of some minutes. After the firing stopped a third HRO joined the two HROs. Some minutes later the IOF soldiers then got into their jeeps and drove away. At 10:30 the HROs walked back to the house.

The HROs were at the house in Al-Faraheen close to the Green Line for a meeting with some of the local farmers to discuss what support, if any, the HROs could give them. Unfortunately, since the HROs cannot guarantee they will still be in the Gaza Strip another five to six months, there is little at the present time for the HROs to do to support the farmers. The farmers don’t want to plant a crop, such as wheat with a three to five month cycle of planting to harvest, unless the HROs would be available to accompany them for the harvest.

In the past when the Palestinian farmers had harvested their crops, but had not yet brought it in from the fields, the IOF soldiers demolished the crops in various ways. The farmers need a guarantee of HRO presence before they will take the huge risk, both physically and financially, of planting. In addition, some brothers who are sheep farmers, now no longer take their few sheep out to graze after the IOF soldiers killed five-hundred of their sheep on 1st May 2008. Since the IOF soldiers demolished so many dunams of various trees and crops on 1st May 2008, there is no grazing land for the sheep. It should be noted that many of the farmers that we met are older, in their seventies.

Please let farmers in your communities know what is happening to the Palestinian farmers here in the Gaza Strip.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

ISM Gaza: Olive harvest on the Green Line

Posted on the ISM webpage on: October 9, 2008

9th October 2008, Beit Hanoun, Northern Gaza Strip

On the 9th October, members of ISM Gaza supported an action organised by a Palestinian youth group called The Local Initiative.

Film by Fida Qishta. Language editing by ISM Gaza

Olive farmers were accompanied onto their land, situated extremely close to the Green Line, under the shadow of several Israeli watchtowers. Palestinian and international activists worked alongside local farmers to bring in the 2008 harvest. Farmers in this area have been denied access to their land by Israeli occupation forces and vast numbers of their trees (150,000 - 200,000) have been destroyed.

However, on this day farmers were able to reach their groves and successfully harvest their olives, fulfilling their basic human right to produce food for their families and their communities.

ISM Gaza join 2008 Olive Harvest Campaign

Posted on the ISM webpage on: October 9, 2008

Many farmers in the Gaza Strip are being denied access to their land by Israeli occupation forces. An arbitrary ‘buffer zone’ is being imposed hundreds of metres deep long the Green Line. Agricultural land has been destroyed in these areas and massive numbers of olive and fruit trees have been bulldozed, devastating the livelihoods of entire farming communities.

According to the PCHR, approximately 31.503 dunums/31.5 million square metres of land in the Gaza Strip, most of it agricultural, has been razed by the Israelis. This represents at least 10% of the total arable land base of the Gaza Strip. This statistic was published in 2005 but much more destruction has been carried out since. The Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights quoted 31,845,815 square metres of agricultural land levelled by the end of 2007. This does not include lands confiscated more than once; the area confiscated being nearly 10 million square metres.

Gazan farmers have also been impacted by the illegal Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip. Fuel shortages have hampered their ability to power their irrigation systems and closures have made crop exports impossible. As food supplies are severely restricted, it is more urgent than ever for Gaza to be as self-sufficient as possible in food production. The Israeli attacks on farmers and their property are yet a further escalation of the collective punishment suffered by the population of Gaza on a daily basis under this siege. They are akin to the atrocities endured by Gazan fishermen as they struggle to access local food sources in the face of arrests, injuries and even killings. The plight of these farmers and fishermen goes unnoticed by the international community, despite blatant violations of the current ceasefire, which would make headline news if the tables were turned.

ISM Gaza is pleased to be participating in the 2008 Olive Harvest Campaign. We will be accompanying farmers working along the Green Line ‘buffer zone’ to harvest their olives. We have established relationships with farmers in Abassan Al-Kabeera in southern Gaza and are liaising with them regarding their olive harvest. In the meantime, a newly formed group in Beit Hanoun, The Local Initiative, established contact with us to join them and others to harvest olives in the ‘buffer zone’ in their area. The olive harvest in the Gaza Strip has just begun and will continue for a couple more weeks. We look forward to joining farmers in various areas of the Gaza Strip as they harvest their olives and show Israeli Occupation Force soldiers that they will continue to work their land.

Updated on October 9, 2008