29 July 2010 | ISM Gaza
Five International Solidarity Movement volunteers participated in a demonstration against the bufferzone near Nahal Oz border crossing, east of Gaza City on Wednesday (July 28th).
The march had a big turn out of over 200 people and was organised by the Popular Campaign for the Security in the Buffer Zone, an umbrella group which includes organisations representing farmers and local people living near the border. Members of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF), a grass-roots organisation heavily involved in the protests against the buffer-zone, waved prominent large white flags.
An Israeli army jeep and a large armoured Israeli vehicle were already in position as the demonstrators approached a ridge 150 metres from the fence, where they stood, waving flags and chanting well inside the ‘no go area’ or ‘buffer-zone’ unilaterally imposed by Israel, covering land 300m from the border fence along the entire frontier with Israel. Violent attacks by the Israeli military on anyone in the area have been a consistent occurrence – frequently live ammunition has been used against peaceful demonstrators and even farmers harvesting crops. According to the Palestine Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) the ‘buffer zone‘ contains over 30% of Gaza’s most useful arable land.
As the demonstration progressed three more jeeps and two tanks arrived. Five soldiers in firing positions were visible outside the vehicles.
In the beginning of the demonstration the majority of participants marched to about 300 metres to the border where the speeches were made, with demonstrators that included a large group of women, carrying banners condemning the occupation and the siege.
Although in the previous demonstration in Nahal Oz the protesters there were heavily fired upon, this time the watching Israeli snipers did not fire. Some youths advanced to within 100m of the border fence, near to where 21 year old Ahmed Deeb was shot and killed by an explode-on-impact bullet or ‘dum dum’, at a Nahal Oz demonstration on the 28th April this year. That demonstration was non-violent as was Wednesday’s but the continuous use of live ammunition by the Israeli Occupation Forces has caused frequent deaths and numerous injuries for farmers and their families, scrap collectors and demonstrators.
Abu Walid Mahmoud Al-Zaq of the Popular Struggle Front and coordinator of the Popular Campaign for the Security in the Buffer Zone was pleased with the turn-out and helped re-group the crowd when the demonstration had finished, fortunately without injuries.
He explained the importance of continuing to demonstrate despite the risk of live fire: “We will support the farmers who have to work their own land in the buffer-zone in spite of the regular violent attacks on them and their families – we will refuse to let the access to our land be controlled by the brutal policies of the Israeli Occupation Forces.” He also said he invites anyone who can to join a buffer-zone demonstration.
The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) report that the fertile farmland located around the buffer zone was in recent times the source of half of the food needs of Gaza’s population. Purely due to Israel’s siege of Gaza’s borders and their continuous attacks, farming has now become a very unproductive industry. Of the 175,000 dunams of cultivable land, PARC reported that 60 to 75,000 dunams have been destroyed during Israeli invasions and operations.
The level of destruction from the last Israeli war on Gaza alone accounted for the destruction of 35 to 60 percent of the agricultural industry, according to the UN and World Health Organization. Gaza’s sole agricultural college, in Beit Hanoun, was also destroyed. Oxfam notes that the combination of the Israeli war on Gaza and the buffer zone renders around 46 percent of agricultural land useless or unreachable.
Between January and April this year there have been 50 people injured and 14 killed in attacks on the buffer zone. In the past twelve months there have been at least 220 Israeli attacks with 116 coming since the beginning of 2010 (PCHR, as of April 30th).