06 February 2011 | International Solidarity Movement
Forty-five year old Abdallah Rabea Odwan works as a rock collector around Beit Lahiya. On the morning of 6th February, he and many others were working outside Abu Samra, around 700 meters from the border, when they were fired upon by Israeli soldiers. Abdallah was hit once below the knee and taken to the Kamal Udwan Hospital. Thankfully, no bones were broken, and doctors say he will recover over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, 19 year old Bilal Abdallah Al Daour and 22 year old Ibrahim El Nabaheen were fired upon whilst working in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood to the east of Gaza city. Hundreds of people were out collecting rocks in the area, about 500 meters from the Israeli border. At around 8:30am the first shots rang out, but no one was injured. The soldiers stopped shooting and, assuming it was safe, people returned to work. An hour later, the soldiers started shooting again; Bilal was shot in the knee and Ibrahim was shot in the pelvis. The other workers rushed them to a nearby car, but the car was out of gas due to the shortages caused by the closing of the tunnels under the Egyptian border. Bilal was finally taken to Shifa Hospital in Gaza city; when we found him, he did not know where Ibrahim had been taken.
These are not the first rock collectors shot by the IDF, as countless others have been shot over the last two years in the ever expanding buffer zone. Originally 50 meters under the Oslo agreements, it was expanded to 150 meters in 2000, and then to 300 meters in January 2010. However, the buffer zone isn’t really 300 meters: Adballah was shot 700 meters from the border; others have been shot at up to 2 km from the border – it is as big as the Israeli military wants to make it on any given day. The Gazan economy has been choked by the three year Israeli siege. Unemployment is widespread, and so poverty – combined with the impossibility of importing cement to rebuild the thousands of homes destroyed and damaged during Operation Cast Lead – forces people to collect rocks. These new injuries are yet another result of Israel’s inhumane policy of shooting anyone it thinks is too close to the border, even if they are forced there, risking their lives to feed their families.