‘All we want is to farm our land peacefully’: Civilians in Gaza continue to suffer from Israel’s restrictive buffer zone

Gaza farmer
60-year-old Abu Te’mah, a farmer in Gaza, says there are parts of his land he cannot reach, despite Israeli announcements about easing the “buffer zone” after the November 2012 ceasefire. (Photo: Ghada Snunu)

The Israeli authorities have been imposing the so called “Buffer Zone,” or Access Restricted Areas (ARA), in the Gaza Strip since 2005, prohibiting Palestinians from safely accessing large swathes of their land. The ARA extends along the entire northern and eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip, adjacent to the “Green Line” with Israel. Although Israel has always said that the ARA extends 300 meters from the border, in practice, at certain points and in certain areas, it has ranged up to 1,500 meters [1]. The ARA includes residential areas and prime agricultural land and water resources. 35% of Gaza’s cultivable land is located within the ARA [2]. Access restrictions in the ARA are enforced through a range of mechanisms that include the use of live fire and the destruction, damage and confiscation of property, putting at risk the lives and well-being of those who enter prohibited areas or the vicinity of such areas.

After the ceasefire understanding of 21 November 2012 that ended the Israeli military operation “Pillar of Defense,” the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) in an online statement on 25 February 2013 declared that farmers could access lands in the border area up to 100m from the border fence. Later, on 11 March 2013, an Israeli army spokesperson announced that it would allow free access up to 300 meters and that some Palestinian farmers would be allowed to coordinate entry to areas that are located closer to the fence. However, the army has refused to provide information on how one might coordinate entry into the ARA [3].

Abu Te’mah, 60, a father of 8, is one of tens of thousands of farmers who have been prohibited from accessing their land in the ARA. Abu Te’mah owns 35 dunams located between 100 and 600 meters from the fence with Israel in the south of the Gaza Strip. “We were very happy to hear about the easing of the restrictions in the area and we rushed to see our land that we hadn’t been able to access for years,” Abu Te’mah said.

Abu Te’mah’s land had been planted with olive, almond, fig and other trees, but the Israeli army repeatedly bulldozed his land, destroying them all as well as water wells in the area. The repeated destruction of his land forced him to grow rain-fed crops such as wheat and barley that don’t require much caring and attendance. ‘‘After the ceasefire I thought of investing in my land but who can guarantee that the Israeli army will not destroy them again, every few days there is an incursion. We even still have parts of our land that we cannot reach,’’ Abu Te’mah explains. Abu Te’mah has incurred major financial losses over the years, and now he is burdened with debts that he can’t meet.

Entry into the ARA remains unsafe and precarious despite the current improvements in the ARA. Killings, injuries and incursions continue to be reported in the ARA. Four Palestinians have been killed and 112 others injured in the ARA since 21 November 2012 [4]. One of the fatalities was a man killed on a farm approximately 1.2 km from the fence. ‘‘We risk our life every day but we don’t have alternatives,’’ Abu Te’mah said.

Abu Te’mah recently planted only 8 dunams of his land with vegetables to make a living and feed his family after receiving some support from one of the local charities. However, he is not able to access sources of irrigation water in the area due to the Israel’s restrictions. “We are forced to get water from water wells outside the ARA at high cost which we cannot afford most of the time,” Abu Te’mah said.

Most of the water wells in the area have been destroyed by the Israeli army during their incursions and military operations, leaving farmers with no water to irrigate their land. 306 water wells in the ARA have been demolished by the Israeli military since 2005 at an estimated cost of 9 million dollars [5]. More than 50% of the land in the ARA is not cultivated due to the access restrictions and unavailability of reliable water supplies [6].

Abu Te’mah and other farmers in the area are struggling to maintain their way of life in the face the Israeli restrictions. “Our land can become a paradise if there are no restrictions and water is available,” he says. “All we want is to farm our land peacefully.”

Israeli restrictions, killings and destruction of property in the ARA are gross violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law, particularly the 4th Geneva Convention and constitute a measure of collective punishment, which is prohibited under the Convention. Israel, as the occupying power in the Gaza Strip, is obliged to abide by its obligations under international law, lift the restrictions in the ARA and ensure the protection and well-being of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

[1] Protection Cluster, Access Restricted Areas update, July 2013.  

[2] EWASH, Factsheet: Water and Sanitation in the Access Restricted Areas of the Gaza Strip, December 2012.

[3] Gisha, Gaza Gateway: Facts and Analysis about the Crossings, June 2013.

[4] OCHA, Protection of Civilians Weekly Update, April 2013.

[5] EWASH, Factsheet: Water and Sanitation in the Access Restricted Areas of the Gaza Strip, December 2012.

[6] Ibid.

About Ghada Snunu

Ghada Snunu is from Gaza City and she is the Gaza Advocacy Officer for EWASH Advocay Task Force campaigning for water rights for Palestinians.
Posted in Gaza, Israel/Palestine | Tagged

{ 46 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. mondonut says:

    Israel, as the occupying power in the Gaza Strip, is obliged to abide by its obligations under international law, lift the restrictions in the ARA and ensure the protection and well-being of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

    Of course the Israelis are not the occupying power, but if they were the only way to comply with this would be to invade and depose the oppressive rule of Hamas.

    • just says:

      “Of course the Israelis are not the occupying power, but if they were the only way to comply with this would be to invade and depose the oppressive rule of Hamas.”

      Step away from your keyboard, take a cleansing breath and get a grip on some truth.

      Israel IS the Brutal Occupying Power and the Oppressors/murderers/marauders/ and thieves.

      explain this:

      “Palestinian killed in Jenin refugee camp in early morning raid, two others shot”

      link to mondoweiss.net

    • Shingo says:

      Of course the Israelis are not the occupying power, but if they were the only way to comply with this would be to invade and depose the oppressive rule of Hamas.

      Of course, Israel IS the occupying power, as they control all air, land and sea access to and from Gaza and invade Gaza at will.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      They are absolutely the occupying power. You’re the equivalent of a Holocaust denier.

    • talknic says:

      mondonut “Of course the Israelis are not the occupying power, but if they were the only way to comply with this would be to invade”

      Denial is not evidence. fnlevit’s post link to mondoweiss.net shows Israel IS the Occupying Power. UNSC res 1860 says Israel is the Occupying Power.

      Caste Lead was an invasion. Pillar of Defense was an invasion. Only an Occupying Power has the right for such invasions. “but if the were…etc etc” … your own words

      The elephant is in the room and you’re wading around neck deep in its crap

      • mondonut says:

        talknic says: UNSC res 1860 says Israel is the Occupying Power. Only an Occupying Power has the right for such invasions.
        ==============================================
        1860 does not state that Gaza is currently occupied by the Israelis, it states that is was occupied in 1967. And no, naval blockades and counter attacks do not make it occupied territory – it makes it a belligerent territory that must be dealt with militarily.

        • talknic says:

          mondonut“1860 does not state that Gaza is currently occupied by the Israelis, it states that is was occupied in 1967. “

          Recalling
          all of its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338
          (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1850 (2008) ..
          ….
          1.
          Stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza;

          Israel has yet to fully withdraw from Palestinian/Gaza’s territorial waters, airspace and fully comply with 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1850 (2008)

          “And no, naval blockades and counter attacks do not make it occupied territory – it makes it a belligerent territory that must be dealt with militarily”

          Problem, it doesn’t just stop at the naval blockade, (an act which oddly enough when not even enforced against Israel, is claimed as an act of war) , you’ve failed to list final authority over all border crossings under the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access AND you’ve failed to acknowledge your own words “but if they were the only way to comply with this would be to invade “ Israel HAS invaded, TWICE!

        • mondonut says:

          talknic says: you’ve failed to list final authority over all border crossings under the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access…
          ===================================================
          Good Lord. Please tell me that you do not think that agreement (with the PA) is still in effect and that the Israelis have the final say in what crosses the Gaza/Egyptian border. Are you that detached from reality?

          And yes they have invaded twice but never with the intent to re-establish control over the territory or its border with Egypt. And that is because, once gain, they do not and do not want to occupy Gaza.

        • mondonut says:

          talknic says:you’ve failed to list final authority over all border crossings under the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access
          ==================================================
          And more. Hamas also believes it is not occupied. They should know.

          The government in Gaza believes that the clamp down on citizens’ travel comes with the acquiescence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In Abbas’ first visit to Cairo, he called for a return to the 2005 agreement, which means Rafah would be managed by Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians and European observers.

          Deputy Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau Moussa Abu Marzouq responded to the call by saying: “Insisting on the application of the 2005 Convention is a call for the return of the occupation.”

        • Djinn says:

          Israel has invaded Gazan territory many many times since its “withdrawl” from the area. Most of these incursions (into Gazan land and maritime areas) pass without any notice outside of Gaza. It is only when they add mass bombing to their invasions that the west pays much attention.

        • Shingo says:

          Hamas also believes it is not occupied.

          So what? It is occupied under international law
          link to jcsl.oxfordjournals.org

    • Djinn says:

      The families I know who live in tents near the buffer zone (technically its hundreds of metres in reality it’s wherever the IDF feels it is) because Israeli forces destroy any permanent structure that is erected have never once told me that their greatest oppression is at the hands of Hamas, strangely they think your criminal armed forces are more of a problem. Probably anti Semites huh mondonut?

  2. just says:

    It seems that the Israelis never miss an opportunity to make things impossibly miserable and dangerous for the indigenous Palestinians……….for farmers, fishermen, Bedouins, children, the incarcerated…….every single one of the Palestinians lives in a constant state of trauma and stress.

    I honestly cannot understand how the US turns a blind eye to the odious and brutal Occupation, pays lip service (only) to justice and peace, and rewards the criminality of the Israeli state to the tune of billions. Not to mention the damnable veto that gives Israel free reign — a veto that undermines international law and the UN.

  3. fnlevit says:

    Between January and June 2013, 25 rockets were launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip, in addition to mortar bombs.

    After Operation Pillar of Defense, as part of the agreements with Egypt, Israel approved the expansion of the sea fishing area from 3 to 6 miles; the daily entry of 20 truckloads of aggregates for the private construction sector; the one-time entry of 60 heavy vehicles; narrowing the perimeter (the strip adjacent to the fence) from 300 meters to 100 meters; and permission was granted for farmers to have access to that strip to farm it.

    Israel refurbished and upgraded the “Grizim” underground electrical line that supplies electricity to the Gaza Strip (one of ten lines that supply electricity from Israel to the Gaza Strip).
    link to mfa.gov.il

    • petersz says:

      Are you one of those Zionist trolls paid for by the Israeli Government trying to whitewash Israeli apartheid? If so your not doing a very good job, it’s like putting lipstick on a pig. Get a life!

    • Shingo says:

      Between January and June 2013, 25 rockets were launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip, in addition to mortar bombs.

      Between January and June 2013, the siege and blockade of Gaza remained in place. The last time Israel was blockaded, it went to war against Egypt.

      After Operation Pillar of Defense, as part of the agreements with Egypt, Israel approved the expansion of the sea fishing area from 3 to 6 miles

      While Israel continues to fire at fishing boats and force fisherman to jump into the water and tread water until they drowned.

      the daily entry of 20 truckloads of aggregates for the private construction sector

      After 6 years of ZERO truckloads of aggregates.

      Israel refurbished and upgraded the “Grizim” underground electrical line that supplies electricity to the Gaza Strip

      Which still remains completely inadequate after Israel destroyed it.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      All irrelevant. You people are the worst criminals in your illegal blockade.

    • talknic says:

      fnlevit “After Operation Pillar of Defense, as part of the agreements with Egypt, Israel approved the expansion of the sea fishing area from 3 to 6 miles…etc etc A”

      All the hallmarks of an Occupying Power. The occupied have a right to attack the Occupying Power. It’s part of the price a belligerent occupier pays.

    • eljay says:

      >> Between January and June 2013, 25 rockets were launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip, in addition to mortar bombs.

      Before January 2013, between January and June 2013, and after June 2013, Israel was and remains an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State” engaged in a 60+ years, ON-GOING and offensive (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder.

      >> After Operation Pillar of Defense, as part of the agreements with Egypt, Israel approved … [and] … Israel refurbished …

      None of which justifies the existence of an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State”.

  4. German Lefty says:

    Thank you for the informative article, Ghada. I didn’t know about this buffer zone.

  5. fnlevit says:

    This is a message to moderators of my comments. I have counted – out of close to 150 of my comments only 51 were posted. Please send me an e-mail explaining what was wrong with almost 100 of my comments. Or was it Ms. Robbins “keeping on a short leash” category…. I expect to recieve an explanation.

    • Cliff says:

      Get over yourself. Everyone is moderated. The mods aren’t obligated to personally send you an email because you whine incessantly about the issue.

    • just says:

      Well, well, well. Sounds like you don’t have anything better to do than count your comments and monitor their “release”. lol.

      Such chutzpah you exhibit with your ‘expectations’.

      • amigo says:

        His profile reveals that he claims to be a “Professor of Physics at Weizmann Institute”.

        I looked up the Faculty and found a Physics Professor named Shimon Levit.If this is the same person perhaps Annie should re-instate his 151 posts and forward them to the Weizmann Institute for the attention of fnlevit,s boss.

        Any Physics Profs amongst the contributors who might take Mr Levit on .

        • libra says:

          amigo: His profile reveals that he claims to be a “Professor of Physics at Weizmann Institute”.

          fnlevit may possibly be a Professor of Physics at Weizmann Institute but he’s certainly no Einstein.

    • Sumud says:

      Hahaha – witness the zionist’s grand sense of entitlement:

      Please send me an e-mail explaining what was wrong with almost 100 of my comments.

      I expect to recieve an explanation.

      What are you going to do? Send in the IDF?

      Mondoweiss is a privately owned and run website supported in part, financially, by people who post here. I’ll bet you haven’t donated.

      The moderators are free to do as they please. If you don’t like it – don’t post.

      Interesting to know you have counted all your posts. For your pay…?

      • Ecru says:

        @ Sumud

        “Interesting to know you have counted all your posts. For your pay…?”

        I hadn’t thought of that, it’s a very good point. Thank you for making it.

    • Donald says:

      Let me suppress my unseemly giggles at the vast sense of entitlement on display and deliver an impassioned protest on behalf of more posts from fnlevit. There is no one writing at this blog today who does a better job exposing the moral vacuousness at the heart of much pro-Israeli apologetics. Not Phil, not Alex, not Adam, not Annie or anyone else. Sure, this exposure isn’t exactly what you’d call intentional, but it’s valuable nonetheless.

      • eljay says:

        >> Let me … deliver an impassioned protest on behalf of more posts from fnlevit. There is no one writing at this blog today who does a better job exposing the moral vacuousness at the heart of much pro-Israeli apologetics. …

        It appears that fnlevit is attempting to wrestle the “eee crown” away from yrn. Will he become the new “King Zio-supremacist” at Mondoweiss? Stay tuned…

        ;-)

    • amigo says:

      ” I expect to recieve an explanation.” fn-levit

      So when lies and hasbara don,t work, try threats.

      Hey levit, we are not 5 year old Palestinian Children on whose neck you have your zionist jackboot.

  6. Ecru says:

    @ fnlevit

    You have GOT to be joking. I’ve had tons of comments not get through moderation, so has everyone else in all probability. And here you are demanding an explanation? From people who do all this for FREE? On their own site? How old are you -12? Things not getting through is part and parcel of internet moderation anywhere, it’s just life – learn to live with it.

    Good gods, do Zionist senses of entitlement and self-pity know no bounds? (Rhetorical question – obviously they don’t.)

  7. fnlevit says:

    This zone is the price farmers pay for all those groups which (for good money paid by Iran, Hezbolah who know who else) are digging tunnels to get across the border to the roads of Israeli patrols and try highjack soldiers.

    • Djinn says:

      And when the people of sderot whine about the trauma their poor pet poodles are experiencing I assume you tell them it’s the price they pay for all the “groups” they voted into power who keep raining destruction on Gaza?

    • Donald says:

      Put the buffer on the Israeli side. Shoot at people there, passing birds, stray insects,the occasional meteorite or visiting alien spacecraft, but do it where Israel has sovereignty.

      • fnlevit says:

        This is such a ridicoulos proposition. I feel stupid even to argue about it. Just to say that it effectively means giving up to this activity, inviting more. And effectively shifting your border by that amount. Imagine Mexico has anti-US groups supported say by Iran or Russia doing such things at your southern border. US would not have not left stone on stone INSIDE Mexico.

        • eljay says:

          >> Imagine Mexico has anti-US groups supported say by Iran or Russia doing such things at your southern border.

          Not surprisingly, the Zio-supremacist has omitted from his analogy the fact that the U.S. has:
          - terrorized and ethnically cleansed most Mexicans from Mexico;
          - occupied and colonized most of Mexico’s territory;
          - engaged in a 60+ years, ON-GOING and offensive (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction, torture and murder against Mexicans;
          - refused to be held accountable for past and on-going (war) crimes against Mexicans;
          - refused to honour its obligations under international law; and
          - refused to enter into sincere negotiations for a just and mutually-beneficial peace.

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          No, what is “ridicoulos” is your psychopathic state’s inability to respect, to even the slightest degree, the rights of non-Jews.

        • Shingo says:

          I feel stupid even to argue about it.

          You have said a great deal to feel stupid about. Israel has always gotten preferential treatment in ceasefire agreements. It’s always th other side that has to demilitarize or disarm and the buffer zone is always in someone else’s land

          Imagine Mexico has anti-US groups supported say by Iran or Russia doing such things at your southern border.

          You can imagine everything you like but there is no basis for it. Iran has no presence in Mexico.

          US would not have not left stone on stone INSIDE Mexico.

          Are you suggesting Hezbollah should leave no stone unturned inside Israel? Sounds a b it extreme to me.

        • Shingo says:

          This is such a ridicoulos proposition.

          It’s only ridiculous because as a racist supremacist with an inflated sense of superiority and entitlement, you cannot imagine the tables being turned. It’s always the non Israelis who have to bear the burden. Israelis should never be inconvenienced.

        • Djinn says:

          What do you mean shifting your border, where pray tell ARE Israel’s borders?

        • Donald says:

          “This is such a ridicoulos proposition. I feel stupid even to argue about it. Just to say that it effectively means giving up to this activity, inviting more”

          Are you talking about the activity of the Israelis shooting at innocent Palestinian farmers on their own land? What do you suggest the Palestinians do about it? Perhaps set up a buffer zone on the Israeli side of the border and take potshots at any Israeli who appears in it?

          See how easy that was? All you have to do is imagine (try really hard) that Palestinians are human beings, the same as Israeli Jews, and apply the argument the other direction. You’re a physicist–you know about symmetry.

        • talknic says:

          fnlevit “I feel stupid even to argue about it”

          Let’s see just how stupid…

          “Just to say that it effectively means giving up to this activity, inviting more”

          Being illegally in Palestinian territory is one of the reasons for Palestinian hostility.

          “And effectively shifting your border by that amount.”

          It’s an Armistice Demarcation Line. Israel’s borders have not legally changed from the day they were first recognized, 15th May 1948

          ” Imagine Mexico has anti-US groups supported say by Iran or Russia doing such things at your southern border. US would not have not left stone on stone INSIDE Mexico. “

          You should feel stupid presenting such a strawman Pajero. The Armistice Demarcation Line ISN’T Israel’s border! Israel has been illegally acquiring Palestinian territory by war aided and abetted by the US

        • Shingo says:

          Perhaps set up a buffer zone on the Israeli side of the border and take potshots at any Israeli who appears in it?

          It’s amazing how Zionists seem to have an inability to ever perform this though experiment.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      Who cares what reason you people give for your war crimes and crimes against humanity?

    • Shingo says:

      This zone is the price farmers pay for all those groups which (for good money paid by Iran, Hezbolah who know who else) are digging tunnels to get across the border to the roads of Israeli patrols and try highjack soldiers.

      But it’s always everyone else who ends up paying a price, where Israel gets away with war crimes and land theft all the time without consequence.

  8. eljay says:

    >> This zone is the price farmers pay for all those groups … digging tunnels to get across the border to the roads of Israeli patrols and try highjack soldiers.

    Groups who “try [to] hijack soldiers” is the price the oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State” of (Greater) Israel pays for its 60+ years, ON-GOING and offensive (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction, torture and murder.

    Anyway, if you want buffer zones, put them on your side of the stolen border. That way, you don’t have to kill farmers on their own land.