Saturday, October 18, 2008

ISM Gaza: ‘Please let farmers in your communities know what is happening to the Palestinian farmers here in the Gaza Strip’

Posted on the ISM webpage on: October 18, 2008

On Tuesday morning, 14th October at around 09:30, two of the Human Rights Observers (HROs), who had spent the night at a house close to the
Green Line in the ‘buffer zone’ in Al-Faraheen, put on florescent yellow vests with reflective tape. They walked out in the demolished fields of olive, citrus, and guava trees surrounding the house. They walked in the direction of the Green Line closest to the house. Less than 250 meters from the house and more than 300 meters from the fence the two HROs sat on cement blocks left from a house or well demolition by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) soldiers on 1st May 2008.

They sat and looked out at the demolished fields and chatted. About twenty minutes later, around 10:00, they observed an IOF jeep on the road. The jeep parked next to another jeep. IOF soldiers got out and stood on the jeep. Shots were then fired by the IOF soldiers. The HROs stood facing the IOF soldiers.

One of the HROs stood with hands and arms raised as if asking “Why are you firing?”, “What are you shooting at?”. The IOF soldiers fired shots three or four times over a span of some minutes. After the firing stopped a third HRO joined the two HROs. Some minutes later the IOF soldiers then got into their jeeps and drove away. At 10:30 the HROs walked back to the house.

The HROs were at the house in Al-Faraheen close to the Green Line for a meeting with some of the local farmers to discuss what support, if any, the HROs could give them. Unfortunately, since the HROs cannot guarantee they will still be in the Gaza Strip another five to six months, there is little at the present time for the HROs to do to support the farmers. The farmers don’t want to plant a crop, such as wheat with a three to five month cycle of planting to harvest, unless the HROs would be available to accompany them for the harvest.

In the past when the Palestinian farmers had harvested their crops, but had not yet brought it in from the fields, the IOF soldiers demolished the crops in various ways. The farmers need a guarantee of HRO presence before they will take the huge risk, both physically and financially, of planting. In addition, some brothers who are sheep farmers, now no longer take their few sheep out to graze after the IOF soldiers killed five-hundred of their sheep on 1st May 2008. Since the IOF soldiers demolished so many dunams of various trees and crops on 1st May 2008, there is no grazing land for the sheep. It should be noted that many of the farmers that we met are older, in their seventies.

Please let farmers in your communities know what is happening to the Palestinian farmers here in the Gaza Strip.