GAZA, May 16, 2016 (WAFA) – Israeli occupation forces deployed and stationed in military watchtowers along the border to the east of Gaza city Monday attacked Palestinian farmers with a barrage of machine gunfire and smoke bombs, according to WAFA correspondent.
Forces indiscriminately opened heavy machine gunfire toward farmers who attempted to reach their agricultural land near the borders with Israel, forcing them to leave the area, however, no injuries were reported.
Since 2005, Israel unilaterally imposed a 300-meter-wide buffer zone into the border with Gaza, sharply affecting the livelihood of tens of thousands of Gaza farmers, who rely heavily on agriculture to provide for their families.
Israeli troops typically enforce the buffer zone with live fire, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which often results in, inter alia, the direct targeting of civilians and/or indiscriminate attacks, both of which constitute war crimes.
PCHR reports that Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians take place anywhere up to approximately 1.5 kilometers inside the border fence, which constitutes approximately 17 percent of the total territory of the Gaza Strip. Approximately 27,000 dunums, 35% of the Gaza Strip’s agricultural land, can only be accessed under high personal risk, as Israeli attacks may result in injury or death of civilians.
As of 2010, UN-OCHA estimated that 35 percent of Gaza’s agricultural land is located in restricted-access areas, affecting the lives and livelihoods of approximately 113,000 people.
Farmers in farmlands on the borders say their situation has only worsened since the last war ended in 2014, pointing to the Israeli military’s frequent incursions into their lands and its practice of firing live ammunition at farmers who enter the sizable ‘buffer zone’ between Gaza and Israel.
According to OCHA protection of civilians weekly report covering the period between April26th and May 2nd, “On at least 21 occasions, Israeli forces opened fire in the Access Restricted Areas (ARA) at land and sea in Gaza, and arrested two fishermen after forcing them to strip and swim towards Israeli naval boats, where they were taken into custody. On four occasions, Israeli forces entered Gaza and carried out land-levelling and excavation operations.”
Regarding the latest developments outside of the reporting period, OCHA said that, “Tensions along the Gaza-Israel border have been on the rise since 4 May, involving a series of attacks by Palestinian armed groups and the Israeli army; a Palestinian woman was killed and four other Palestinian civilians, including three children, and an Israeli soldier, were injured, according to initial media reports.”