12 March 2010Deep dissatisfaction with the Israeli policy of preventing access to the 300 metre belt along the border have resulted in a rise in number of weekly protests in Gaza and a significant increase in the number of people participating in them. This measure has made 30 percent of the best agricultural land of Gaza Strip off limits. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas of the world and farm land is already in short supply.
Farmers from the border areas have been particularly badly affected by the imposition of the ‘buffer zone’. Intimidation by the Israeli army patrolling the border, including shooting at farmers and bulldozing of the land, has resulted in the formation of a new organisation called Popular Campaign to Oppose the Buffer Zone.
The Popular Campaign has joined forces with the existing protests and in addition they have been organizing their own weekly protests in different areas alongside the border.
On Tuesday 9 March, the protesters form the Local Initiative Beit Hanoun were they were joined by farmers from the Popular Campaign, a large group of local women living in some of the most dangerous border areas and five ISM activists. This was the largest demonstration near the Erez crossing so far, with more than 150 participants. The marchers stopped about 50 meters away from the border wall near the previously erected Palestinian flag. For about an hour the the marchers held speeches and chanted demands for an end of the occupation and lifting of the siege.On the next day, Wednesday the 10th of March, the Popular Campaign held the first demonstration near the Karni crossing, which was until recently the main entry point for the goods allowed into Gaza. Local residents joined the demonstration together with approximately 200 protesters including the 5 ISMers and stayed one kilometer away from the border. They where confronted by a Israeli army jeep which was later joined by a second jeep and by what looked like a surveillance vehicle. Even though the demonstration was peaceful the soldiers fire several warning shots to keep marchers at bay. Fortunately no one was injured and about an hour after the demonstrators dispersed.
Both events have received excellent media coverage and were reported on Aljazeera, PRESS TV and on a local TV channels and well as in the local press.