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Scrap collector injured in the North

26 February 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza

As his family was hungry but running out of cooking gas, Khaled Mohammed Al-Hsunmi (37) went out to collect wood. Cooking gas in Gaza is scarce and expensive (the siege does not allow much gas to enter), so Khaled regularly goes on a hunt for wood. Burning wood is plenty near the border, so he headed in this direction. The 26 of February he was at approximately 450 meters from the fence when an Israeli sniper hit him with a dum-dum bullet. The bullet, which explodes on impact and is illegal under the Geneva Convention, scattered the bones of his right lower leg.

“I have a family of nine. My eldest son is 10 years old and my eldest daughter is 18. I used to be a farmworker, but in the past two months nobody has called me,” sighs Khaled.

He had a surgery with external fixing to solidify his bones. Probably Khaled will need another surgery after a year to transmit parts of his hip bone to the scattered leg bones.

It is not the first time that his family has been put under live fire. His 18-year old nephew, Bilal Shaban Al-Hsunmi, is one of the two people visiting him in the hospital today. Bilal was himself injured on December 11th, 2010, while working as a scrap collector 350 meters from the border. Bilal still walks around with the metal fixing on his leg. He was hit by a dum-dum bullet too and is also waiting for a transplantation surgery to fix his scattered leg bones.

Bilal explains how his two elder brothers were also shot at by the occupation forces while working, which has put the entire family without an income, because the three of them were the only ones with work.

Khalil’s second visitor’s leg is also wrapped in external metal fixing. It is Mohamed Smail Al-Khamadaw (34), Khaled’s neighbor. On November 19th he was also hit by a bullet while collecting rubble 350 meters from the border. “The only thing that kept my leg together was the skin: the bones were shattered to pieces”, says Mohamed. “Nobody else in my family has a job. May God help us find a way to survive.” When he was asked whether he has a message for the outside world, he replied without hope: “I have no message. Any message is useless: Israel will continue doing whatever it wants to do. Anything I’d say won’t make any difference.”

Today’s attack exemplifies yet again Israel’s escalating assault on workers in the border area: since the beginning of November, approximately 40 people have been injured in the buffer zone: the no-go zone as declared by Israeli military that runs along the Gazan side of the border in a swathe 300 to 500 meters wide. However, according to the United Nations, this “high risk” zone stretches up to 1500-2000 meters. The total area amounts to 35% of Gaza’s arable land. Almost nobody enters the no-go zone, so most of the cases of injured or killed people in the last period have been in the high risk area, though it is not clearly defined nor explicitly declared by the occupation forces.