Over 100 rounds of live ammunition were fired at peaceful protesters in a Tuesday demonstration in the Gaza strip. The protest at the Erez border area near Beit Hanoun yesterday included Palestinian activists from the Local Initiative group, local residents and 4 members of the International Solidarity Movement who marched into the site of the recent fatal Israeli incursion. The demonstrators had a view of the area where only a few days earlier, a Grandfather Ibrahim Abu Sayed and his 17 year-old grandson were killed by Israeli tank shelling.
The peaceful demonstration was joined by several young Palestinians, who were also protesting their right to their land, much of which is now lost or out of bounds by the Israeli imposed “buffer-zone.” This buffer-zone is 300 metres wide and stretches along the entire border fence on the frontier with Israel. According to the recent United Nations Report “Between the Fence and a Hard Place” the violence used to restrict Palestinians from accessing their land covers areas up to 1500m from the border fence, meaning that over 35% of Gaza’s most agricultural land is in a high risk area causing severe losses of food production and livelihoods.
On a previous demonstration, the activists had managed to partly remove a barbed wire fence, which had prevented them from entering their own farm land. This was met by an Israeli incursion days later, in which tanks and bulldozers unearthed a huge trench in front of the fence, about one kilometre long, three meters deep and two meters wide.
Having marched to the wire fence, 100 metres from the border wall, the demonstrators chanted and waved flags, planting one Palestinian flag beyond the wire fence. They had brought shovels and begun to refill the trench, when the Israel army suddenly opened fire around them. Under heavy shooting with life ammunition, the participants stood their ground, communicating through a megaphone, some crouching low for cover amidst the gunfire that came within 5 metres.
“We attend these demonstration because of the huge border area that takes Palestinian land”, eighteen year-old Hussam told us. “We don’t want it to be separated from our own land, it’s farmland and people are killed for trying to harvest it. Because of that we came to make them feel secure again.”
The shooting created an atmosphere of terror and fear among the demonstrators, as they had no safe place to hide around in the forcibly neglected area. Nevertheless they managed to hold up their message to the world: “Boycott Israel”. The ongoing attacks against civilians in the buffer zone, destroying livelihoods and wiping out land, have continued for too long despite the awareness of the criminally silent international community.
“We call upon the International community not to stay idle any more, but to take their responsibility to stop the ongoing crimes against humanity, and the violation of International law”, Saber Al Za’anin, the General Coordinator of the Local Initiative stated.
The security situation in the area has been deteriorating. The three innocent civilians were murdered about 700 meters away from the fence while doing their daily check on their land and animals which graze next to the remains of his former home. They were killed instantly, Ibrahim suffered severe shrapnel injuries to his face, chest and stomach and his grandson Hossam had the back of his head blown away.
The Abu Sayed family had been victims of the violent attacks in the “buffer-zone” for decades, culminating in their death. The last decade had been the hardest as their house was destroyed in 2000 by Israeli bulldozers and their rebuilt house destroyed in the 3-week Israeli war on Gaza over the New Year of 2009 that killed a further 1400 Palestinians.
While all the inhabitants of Gaza are victims of Israel’s ‘collective punishment’, a crime against humanity according to article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (of which Israel is a signatory), these people are the latest to be murdered with complete impunity.
Today’s demonstration, met with the same violence, was a message to the world which shows the unbreakable public resistance. “We will keep supporting the farmers here, who are suffering from ongoing attacks on their land, olive trees, thyme and lives, despite the terrorist power we are facing”, announced Saber Al Za’ain.
“We are going to return back to our farms and hold on to our rights on this land.”