Since the beginning of 2013, Al-Haq has reported 13 cases in which Palestinian stone-collectors, farmers and fishermen have been fired upon by the Israeli military in unprovoked attacks in the Gaza Strip. During the same time period, Al-Haq monitored at least six cases of stone-collectors who had been shot by the Israeli army while collecting rubble and stones in different areas close to the border with Israel, known as the buffer zone. Last week, Al-Haq documented the injury of ‘Amir Mazin Abu Hadayid, 21, and ‘Umar Ghayyath Muharib, 48, after both men were targeted by the Israeli military while working in the proximity of the buffer zone.
The buffer zone is a no-go area which surrounds the Gaza Strip both on land and at sea. Since the start of the closure on Gaza, the Israeli authorities have periodically changed the size of the buffer zone but the occupied Palestinian population have never been properly informed of its boundaries. The current size and depth of the buffer zone remain uncertain due to the fact that they are not physically demarcated. At present, it is estimated that the buffer zone restricts access to land within 1,500 metres of the Israeli border. This area constitutes over 17 per cent of the territory of the Gaza Strip, including 35 per cent of its total arable land, severely weakening the potential for economic and agricultural development.
‘Amir Mazin Abu Hadayid – Khan Yunis Governorate
On 10 June 2013, at around 6:00 am, Sahir Mazin Abu Hadayid, 17, along with his two elder brothers, ‘Amir, 21, and Yasir, 19, headed to the border area near Sufa crossing east of Khan Yunis. The three brothers have been working for two years as stone-collectors in that area, which is approximately 100 metres from the border fence with Israel.
At around 7:00 am, Sahir saw an Israeli military jeep approaching the area and stopping near them on the other side of the border fence. Sahir recalls seeing four Israeli soldiers step out of the military vehicle and order them in Arabic to leave the area immediately. The soldiers then opened fire towards them with live ammunition. Sahir, who was walking in front, heard ‘Amir behind him screaming in pain. He turned and saw ’Amir on the ground; the upper part of his shirt soaked with blood. Sahir and Yasir ran back to their brother and quickly carried him to their small cart. The two brothers took ‘Amir to the hospital in Khan Yunis, situated three kilometres to the west of the border area.
The doctors informed Sahir that the bullet had pierced the back of ‘Amir’s left shoulder and exited from the upper part of his chest and that ‘Amir was in critical condition. At the time of writing, ‘Amir was still hospitalised and recovering from his injury. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 8728/2013)
‘Umar Ghayyath Abu Muharib – Middle Area Governorate
‘Umar Ghayyath Abu Muharib, 48, owns a small plot of land in east Wadi al-Salaka village, southeast of Deir al-Balah, 400 metres from the border with Israel. On 14 June 2013, at 7:00 pm, he was watering plants on his land when he heard gunfire. ‘Umar nevertheless continued working as he is used to the sound of shots being fired in that area by Israeli soldiers positioned on the other side of the border.
A few minutes later, ’Umar felt pain in his right thigh. He realised that he had been shot when he saw blood on his leg. ‘Umar attempted to go to his house, which is located 100 metres from the piece of land where he was working, but he fell to the ground. ‘Umar called for help and his brother Jamal, 42, and his cousin, Hammad, 22, rescued him and carried him to Hammad’s car. ‘Umar was taken to a hospital in Deir al-Balah, where the doctors removed a bullet from his right thigh. ‘Umar was informed that he would also have to undergo surgery again to remove shrapnel that is very close to a nerve in his leg. Two days later, ‘Umar was released from hospital and returned home. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 8729/2013)
The continuous targeting of Palestinian civilians in the buffer zone at sea and on land by the Israeli military constitutes a blatant violation of Israel’s obligations under international law. As the Occupying Power, Israel must abide by international human rights law when enforcing the restrictions in the buffer zone and must refrain from using lethal force against civilians. In addition, Al-Haq reiterates that the closure of the Gaza Strip amounts to collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population in blatant violation of international humanitarian law. As recently restated by Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, the six years of closure of land, air and sea imposed on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has left them living in a state of perpetual poverty and aid dependency.