A common sound heard by Palestinians living near the so-called buffer zone in the Gaza Strip is the sound of sporadic gun-fire coming from the Israeli controlled border. This gun-fire has deadly consequences. Many Palestinian civilians, usually farmers and rubble-collectors, whose workplace or home lies near the buffer zone, have been killed or injured whilst going about their daily activities.
Following is the account of a typical incident which occurred this week.
Hamza Muhammad al-Tilbani
On 27 December at around 9:00 am, Israeli occupying forces shot 12-year-old Hamza in the thigh with a live bullet. Hamza was riding a donkey carraige on his way to buy vegetables for his family when he was shot about 1000 meters from the Gaza Strip border, near al-Musaddar village, Deir al-Balah governorate.
This is Hamza’s account of what happened:
“While on my way [to buy vegetables], I heard the sound of intermittent fire coming for the direction of the border. Gun-fire shots by the occupying forces is something I often hear because our house is located near the border area and is surrounded by an open area of agricultural land. […] When I was about 300 meters from my house, I felt something hit my left thigh and felt excrutiating pain in my leg. Due to the pain, I fell from the donkey carriage onto the floor on the left side. I placed my hand on the part of my leg that was most painful and I saw my hand become soaked with blood. I began calling out to one of the nearby farmers for help.”
Hamza was taken to hospital and had to undergo surgery. He is now resting in his home in the village of al-Musaddar. It is worth noting that Hamza's home is only around 700 meters from the Gaza Strip border and so he and his family live under constant threat of being struck by Israeli gun-fire.
The Buffer Zone
The buffer zone is an Israeli military no-go area that extends within the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) along the entire Gaza Strip’s border with Israel as well as at sea. Over the past few years, Israel has effectively expanded this restricted area while failing to properly inform the Palestinian population. The buffer zone is not physically demarcated with its overall parameters unknown uncertain. Furthermore, Israel’s enforcement of the buffer zone seriously infringes upon the rights of protected persons and causes many civilian casualties.
Currently, the buffer zone on land extends over approximately 17 per cent of the territory of the Gaza Strip. Since it is estimated that approximately 95 per cent of the restricted area is arable land, the buffer zone on land extends over 35 per cent of the Gaza Strip’s agricultural land.
The restrictions and the enforcement of the buffer zone affect primarily but not only farmers whose houses and agricultural land are located within or nearby the buffer zone. Rubble-collectors are also affected as some collection sites are also located within or nearby the restricted areas.
For more information see Al-Haq’s Report: Shifting Paradigms - Israel’s Enforcement of the Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip and Al-Haq’s Virtual Field Visit and Interactive Map of the Buffer Zone.