4 December 2010 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza
On Saturday, the 4th of December 2010, three people were shot and injured at the northern border near to Bait Lahya. All of them sustained multiple fractures that required surgery, and two of them were hit with ‘dum-dum’ bullets, which explode on impact.
The three of them were civilians who have no other way to survive than by collecting scrap at the border.
Belal Elhsomi is 17 years old, but looks much younger. The sniper who shot him may have thought he was shooting a 14 year old boy. When we visited him, he had great difficulty speaking because he had just come out of surgery and had 6 irons sticks protruding from his leg for fixing the broken bone.
Usually Belal collects scrap, but today he was collecting wood 500 – 600 meters from the border in an area near to Beit Lahya. A dum-dum projectile, which exploded on impact, entered his right lower leg, smashing the bones inside.
“Israeli special forces entered in the area and hid there, I saw it”, witness Ata Elshomi explains to us. After Belal was shot, his friends took him by horse cart to a place where the ambulance could come, and from there he was brought to the hospital. According to Ata, after the shooting, all the 300 people who had been working in the area went away.
Belal’s father explained to us: “I am worried for my son, but there is so much unemployment, my son has to work.” Belal’s 26-year-old brother was injured 5 months ago in the same area, at the same distance from the border, so Belal was forced to take his place. The father has problems with his back and cannot work, so the work of this son is the only source of income for their 15 member family.
According to the doctor, Belal will need five months to recover before he will be able to walk again.
Mohammed Ata Elhosomi is married, has two sons, and shares his home with seven members of his family. Only two weeks ago he began collecting scrap. But on Saturday, at 9:30 in the morning, he was shot at in his leg with no warning shot by an M16, while working on his own in an area with about 300 people doing the same work.
He used to be a farm hand, but can no longer find such work in the sector because farming has decreased in Gaza. Since Mohammed was forced to give up his farming job, the only thing he can do is go to the border and collect scrap.
According to the OCHA report, about 35% of the cultivable land in Gaza lies in the ‘buffer zone’, the patch of land stretching up to 500 meters into Gaza which is a high risk area: anyone entering from 1000 – 1500 meters from the border is under a high risk of being shot at by Israeli soldiers. There are frequent incursions in the area, during which the Israeli army destroys fields so that farmers can no longer work on them.
“I don’t care if I will get injured; I just care about my family. I have to bring them food and for this I do whatever I can,” Mohammed stated.
The doctor showed us the x-ray on which we saw the fibula broken into many little pieces and explained to us that he is going into surgery because he “needs an internal fixing”.
When we entered the room where Marwan Mahmoud Murouf was lying, he was moving moving his head without opening his eyes, moaning, and clearly suffering. He had just come out of surgery and was not able to communicate. He had been hit in the higher part of his right leg. According to the doctor, it will take four months before Marwan will be able to attempt walking again, and he must undergo surgery because he needs internal fixes.
The father of his wife told us that Marwan is 26 years old, and has four children. He is the only one working in the family, and it was his first day of work as a scrap collector. Before this job, he worked in the tunnels.
Marwan’s father-in-law explained: “I used to work in Israel. The sons have to go to school and there is no work here. We go into the buffer zone as scrap collectors because there is no alternative. What else can we do?”
According to Ma’an news, another man was injured today while standing in front of his house, in an area in the east of Deir ElBalah, when Israeli forces opened fire on him. Another two workers were shot yesterday, and the day before. There has obviously been a sharp increase in causalities within and close to the buffer zone this month. The total number of civilians shot since March is 90, with 17 in the last week alone, and four today.
The siege is not only blocking the admission of building materials: in the last period the amount of incoming wheat has decreased alarmingly, and the average number of tons of animal fodder permitted from Israel into the coastal enclave per week has dropped from 16,000 tons to 2,000 in the last two periods, according with Ma’an.
It is brutal that Israel won’t leave any alternative to the people of Gaza than to work at the border, but will then shoot at them knowing they are civilians, and usually, visibly young.