Friday, February 12, 2010

Palestinians detained near Gaza-Israel border

Gaza – Ma'an – Israeli forces detained at least six Palestinians in northern Gaza on Thursday, witnesses said and the army confirmed.

Onlookers said 10 Palestinian men scavenging for iron girders northeast of Beit Lahiya were seized and dragged into Israel by soldiers patrolling the border. They were rummaging through the rubble of buildings, and were loaded into military vehicles and taken to an undisclosed location, the witnesses said.

Approached by Ma'an, an Israeli military spokesman said six Palestinians were detained when they came close an area considered off-limits to Palestinians. He said they were released shortly thereafter.

Residents of the area said Israeli soldiers opened fire on workers Wednesday, with no injuries reported.

As Israel and Egypt continue to ban all but 36 types of goods for import into Gaza, most of which are foodstuffs, the only construction material currently permitted into the area are limited numbers of glass panes, to replace those blown out during Israel's Operation Cast Lead last year. Freezing temperatures overnight and makeshift window patch jobs have created dire conditions for many Gazans.

Others whose homes were destroyed have reconstructed some parts with mud brick, an initiative pioneered by the de facto government in the rebuilding of its government and police headquarters in Gaza City. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), charged with care of Palestinian refugees until a just solution to the refugee issue is reached, began building mud-brick homes in the summer.

A few dozen Palestinian and international protesters approached the same area on Sunday, drawing fire from Israeli forces operating an "exclusion zone" inside the coastal enclave's borders.

Israeli armed forces fired four gunshots when the group approached an area near the Erez crossing, said Saber Az-Za'anin, coordinator of Local Initiative, a Beit Hanoun-based organization seeking to reclaim some 300 meters of privately owned farmland.

An Israeli military spokesman told Ma'an that "IDF soldiers identified a suspicious gathering in a restricted area in the northern Gaza. Soldiers responded according to procedures by firing warning shots in the air."

A few weeks ago, Israeli aircraft dropped warning flyers over the Gaza Strip reiterating that Palestinians were banned from approaching the zones, which are inside Gaza but along the periphery.

The area of Beit Hanoun, located in northeastern Gaza, suffered significant destruction during the Israeli military assault that began in late December 2008. Many houses were completely destroyed and no buildings were left standing anywhere near the border.