18 January 2010
Today the 18th January 2010 four International Solidarity Movement activists participated in a demonstration to reclaim Palestinian Land in Beit Hannoun, northern Gaza. The demonstration was organized by the Local Initiative Beit Hannoun Group and around 15 activists attended. Activists gathered in front of the Agricultural University College which now lays in rubble after it was bombed during operation Cast Lead.
Activists then walked towards the border chanting “the occupation must stop” and “open Gaza’s borders” along the way. The demonstrators stopped at 250 metres from the border. Saber Zanin, the director of Local Initiative Beit Hannoun, described how farmers face being shot at on a daily basis as they attempt to work their lands that lie in the buffer zone. This, he insisted, can no longer be tolerated by the International Community. He called upon Israeli Authorities to respect international law and stop attacking farmers. Pointing to a plot of land which lies close to the border he said “we will be back soon to replant this land which now lies empty”.
Today’ demonstration to reclaim Palestinian land is the second with the first having taken place last Monday. The aim is to make this demonstration a weekly one based on the lessons learnt from the non-violent weekly demos held at Nilin, Bilin and Al’ Masara.
In May 2009 and again in December 2009, Israeli Authorities threw flyers across Gaza threatening to shoot farmers who venture closer than 300 metres from the border. Since then there have been numerous reports by human rights organisations of farmers being shot at as far as 1 kilometre. According to agricultural institutions such as the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC), the land in the buffer zone is the most fertile of all Gaza. Farming is one of the traditional forms of employment in Gaza but more and more farmers stop farming their lands due to the danger they face. 65% of Gaza’ 1.5 million population is currently unemployed and 85% are living in poverty and dependent on UNRWA support.