stories from the border, where donkeys and carts are potential threats to Zionist security

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The Israeli army killed a Palestinian civilian in the southern Gaza Strip and wounded 42 civilians, including 7 children along the border fence in the Gaza Strip from Nov 22-29 (source: PCHR)

The Israeli soldiers saw us. They were speaking at us, but they didn’t tell us to leave,” says Haithem Abu Dagga. “About eight soldiers moved past the electric fence and towards the interior fence about 30 metres inside Palestinian land, where we were standing. After only a few minutes they began shooting.”

The Israeli soldiers were by this point roughly 5 metres away, he says.

Haithem, a lean young man from Abassan, a rural farming area east of Khan Younis, speaks in short sentences as he tells his story of being shot point-blank by an Israeli soldier. He relates the shooting with no drama, as though he’s speaking of an everyday event. Which, unfortunately, for Gaza’s farmers is more or less true. His audience, a number of solidarity activists who have come to Gaza explicitly to meet people like Haithem, listen rapt to his quiet words.

We were looking at the fence and the soldiers beyond. When the shooting started, I didn’t realize at first I had been shot. Then the pain came. Everybody else was running, and because the Israeli soldiers continued shooting, no one could reach me. It was a couple of minutes before friends got back to me. The Israeli soldiers kept shooting at us as my friends carried me off to where the ambulance could reach me.”

As is often the case in Gaza with border region injuries (Israeli army shootings, shellings, flechette bombs…), Palestinian ambulances cannot usually reach the wounded: Israeli soldiers also attack medics and ambulances (see Defend the Rescuers for cases of Israeli soldiers targeting Palestinian medics).

This usually means a life-and-death gamble for the injured, as civilians nearby try to carry he/she, sometimes hundreds of metres, to an accessible road. If it is an artery would, the window of time before bleeding out is less than 10 minutes.

When Mohammed Le Braim was shot in February 2009, although he was already 500 metres from the border, neither cars nor an ambulance could reach him. His fellow farm-labourers picked him up to haul him away, tripping immediately over a row of cacti and dropping the injured young man.

The drama in Haithem’s shooting comes not only from the point-blank-fired bullet and subsequent leg wound, but from the reality that Haithem is the sole income-bringer in his family. His mother, father, a sister, his wife and his 5 children depend on the money he earns working as a farm labourer, something he won’t be able to do for several months until his leg heals.

As we listen, it dawns on us that Haithem is from the same extended Abu Dagga family of that of Ahmed, the 13 year old shot dead by an Israeli soldier just days before Israel assassinated Jabari and began it’s murderous 8 days of bombing all over Gaza.

Along the Green Line border dividing Gaza and Israel an electrified fence, military watch towers from north to south, remotely-controlled machine gun towers, and information-gathering blimps/balloons all serve to monitor the border region and ward off what Israel deems as threats to security.

Two separate, overlapping, OCHA reports note that 51 Palestinian civilians were killed and 237 injured (Jan 2009-Aug 2010), and 38 Palestinian civilians killed, 372 injured (Jan 2010-Oct 2011). Although a span of 7 months overlap with the two reports, its a safe bet to say that between 60-70 Palestinian civilians were killed and over 300 injured from Jan 2009 to Oct 2011, a 2.5 year span.

Compare this to Israeli casualties and you get a sense of the huge power imbalance favouring the occupying state, and realize that Israel’s attacks on Palestinian civilians has nothing to do with security.

Yousef Munayyer gives a good explanation of projectiles fired from Gaza vs those fired by Israel into Gaza:

In 2011, the projectiles fired by the Israeli military into Gaza have been responsible for the death of 108 Palestinians, of which 15 where women or children and the injury of 468 Palestinians of which 143 where women or children.

Conversely, rocket fire from Gaza in 2011 has resulted in the death of 3 Israelis. I’ve tried to find an accurate aggregate number of Israelis injured by projectiles from Gaza in 2011 but haven’t found anything yet. I’d be happy to update this post with that information once available. I think, however, the point is quite clear when it comes to the numbers; the imbalance is tremendous.

Phan Nguyen gives an amazing break-down of the truth behind Israeli propaganda:

Dissecting IDF propaganda: The numbers behind the rocket attacks

Throughout the years of rocket attacks into Israel, a total of 26 people have been killed altogether

For the entire duration of the 2008 Hamas–Israel cease-fire—even after Israel had broken the cease-fire on Nov. 4—not a single person was killed by rocket or mortar fire into Israel. Yet approximately two hours after Israel’s commencement of Operation Cast Lead, one person in Israel was struck and killed by shrapnel from a Qassam rocket. Two days later, three more people were killed in Israel from Gaza rocket and mortar attacks.

And for an entire year before Operation Pillar of Cloud, not a single Israeli was killed by rocket or mortar. Yet approximately sixteen hours after Pillar of Cloud commenced, a rocket from Gaza killed three Israelis.

It was during both military operations that Israel endured the highest number of fatalities from Gaza rockets and mortars in the shortest time spans.

**It is extremely worthwhile reading Phan’s entire article, in which he charts real, verified stats against claims of the Israeli army, showing very succinctly the reality of the power imbalance and the Israeli propaganda.

Somewhere around 300 metres or less from the border fence, deep tank tracks have rutted the land, turning flat earth into unworkable moguls. Farmers say that the latest Israeli bombings also targeted farmland throughout Gaza, leaving behind vast craters. All of this needs to be flattened before farmers can use the land. Without large tractors, the task of pushing the land back into its horizontal position becomes near-impossible. Most Palestinian farmers in Gaza, particularly in the border regions, don’t have a tractor, do their farming by hand or with the help of a donkey and cart. Being the border region period is dangerous enough for them, renting a tractor to drive around on border lands—as normal a farming activity as it is—ramps up the risks to Palestinian farmers.

As I’m reading thru a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report for recent stats on the buffer zone, I come across the note that certain factors increased the risk of being shot at by an Israeli soldier, including: being a man; being in a small group (4-6 people); wearing a veil; entering with a donkey cart; entering between dusk and dawn, characteristics which inevitably pertain to Palestinian farmers and civilians in the border regions.

The report‘s stats are that as of Aug 2010 that “305 water wells, 197 chicken farms, 377 sheep farms, three mosques, three schools, and six factories” in Gaza’s border regions had been destroyed by the Israeli army.

Weekly Israeli military land-razing invasions are just one aspect of the violation of Palestinian territory. Israeli soldiers have also burned crops ready for harvest, systematically bombed and bulldozed water wells and cisterns, abducted farmers and rubble collectors working near the border, demolished and damaged hundreds of homes within 300 metres from the fence and beyond throughout the border region, destroyed innumerable chicken and cattle farms, and with these acts destroyed Palestinian farmers ability to earn a living, feed their families, and contribute desperately-needed affordable produce and protein to the markets of Gaza. The Israeli army has killed and injured tens of Palestinians protesting the Israeli policy of killing and destruction in the border regions.

The grass on our land has gotten very tall now because we haven’t been able to access and tend the land. Now, if we want to plant anything we’d need to burn the grass off. But the Israeli army would be suspicious, think we were doing something else,” says one of the farmers in the gathering, though all share pretty much the same problems.

Right now, we can only wait for the rains. We used to collect rain water in cisterns to use it year-round, but that’s impossible now because the cisterns have been destroyed.”

One farmer goes into the details of how they buy water from the township, how much it costs. But aside from the intentional Israeli army destruction of their wells and cisterns, the more alarming note is that even if they do buy water, it is salty, is not good for their crops.

Leila, one of the farmers hosting this meeting, speaks of an elderly man killed in the last Israeli attacks on Gaza.

He was old, harmless,” she says, stooping into a hunch to illuminate just how frail the victim was. “He wanted to harvest his olives. He wouldn’t let his children or grandchildren help, forbade them because he was worried about Israeli attacks.”

His attempts to protect them back-fired, on himself as well. “One of his grand-daughters brought him a tray of tea. She hadn’t even reached him when a drone bombed the area. He was killed, she was killed…

As I’m leafing through web pages, I come across mention of this elderly martyr:

Elderly farmer Ibrahim Abu Nasr was determined to harvest his last two olive trees, despite ongoing Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip last Wednesday.

The ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants would come into effect just nine hours later.

But as Ibrahim, 80, began prayers in the olive grove in Abassan village, east of Khan Younis in south Gaza, an Israeli missile struck the site.

His 15-year-old granddaughter Amira was bringing him lunch at that moment, and was also killed when she was hit by shrapnel.

Ibrahim’s son and Amira’s uncle, Khalil Abu Nasr, described to Ma’an the family’s shock when the missile struck. The relatives were in their house next to the olive grove, when the sound of an explosion pierced the room.

“We rushed out to the land, and what we saw tore our hearts,” he said.

Khalil’s brother was also seriously wounded by shrapnel and is recovering form his injuries.

Another of Khalil’s brothers, Abed, had been killed in the last Israeli war on Gaza in 2008-9.

Khalil said his elderly father insisted on visiting his land despite the war. He could sit all day tending his crops without boredom or fear, as he grew up on this farm, the son recalled.

“As an 80-year-old he did not go to plant explosives or to kill, but simply to harvest olives,” Khalil said.

In Beit Hanoun a day earlier, I met one of the more recent victims of Israeli army shooting. Mahmoud Naim, 21, was shot in his abdomen, not far from his heart, on Nov 28, for the crime of walking on Palestinian land. I take his testimony and talk with relatives visiting the young man. An uncle speaks of the old days, not the pre-1948 days but the days at least before the buffer zone, grasping at good memories.

Before, it was normal, we grew oranges, could access our land, weren’t afraid to be on our land. The Israelis destroyed all of the trees, prevented all of our farmers from going on their land.”

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2 comments

  1. Hello Eva,
    Fine piece of work. Good to see you promoting Phan Nguyen writings. I was with him with the ISM in Easter 2002 in Bethlehem. Brave fellow.
    take care.
    Kevin Neish, Victoria, Canada

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