Fear of bulldozers crushing, Khan Younis farmers reap their crops prematurely

GAZA STRIP,   27 April 2015 – Gazan farmers rush toward their border lands on the edge of Khuza’a, east of Khan Yunis, to harvest barley crop extended on a piece of land is away only 150 meters from the watchtower, which shoots automatically towards farmers who approach the barbed wire.

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Continuous targeting

Farmer Dia Abu Zaid, 25, said: “We had to accelerate the harvest of barley crop of this year early as a result of escalating attacks and growing concerns from the Israeli occupation, pointing out that the occupation haunt farmers in every morning by shooting, whether from surveillance towers or patrols passing along the border.

Not to mention the constant incursions along the border, which deliberately bulldozed large tracts of land.

He adds: “We secure the quantities that we crop to a safer place within the city, so that the process of harvesting is risky for us due to our difficult economic circumstances as a result of the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip”.

According to the human rights report recently released by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the equivalent of 35% of the agricultural land in the Gaza Strip, which represent about 17% of the Gaza Strip area as a whole, is difficult for farmers to access because the Israeli occupation consider it a buffer zone.

The report, which was issued during the truce signed between Israel and Hamas in the 2012, emphasized that the agreement did not contribute to the improvement of the situation of Palestinians in the border areas prohibited from access.

Risky Harvest

On the one hand not far from the barbed wire on the border, the farmer Kamel Qudeih, 43, takes his sickle and harvests the barley, which lasts for several days, as he said.

He adds that he was forced to bring the number of workers to speed up the harvest of his crop before the area exposed to any risk, saying: “We do not feel comfortably, so this time we harvest wheat and barley a month ahead of schedule as a result of the risk that surrounds due to the repeated incursions and shooting, not to mention the patrols that impede our presence through our targeting between the moment and the other.

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Qudiah indicates that land is planted with wheat and barley and that is the only way to make a living, which is the source of his income through them and supports his six children.

Qudiah owns a piece of land with an area of 16 acres planted with barley, wheat and some other crops.

Hit and run

After around 100 meters from the barbed wire, or border, sits a 40- year old lady, looks afar at the movement of the Israeli military vehicles and jeeps that roar from time to time.

The lady, who is called, Um Fadi Abu Rujaila, wearing the embroidered dress, dusty ribbon, triticeum face and anguish in her eyes says: “Since 14 years we can not cultivate our land, thankfully recently we were able this year to take advantage of it, but interests are risky, and occupation gripped us daily by shooting.

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She confirms that she has the right to grow and harvest on her land, and insists on being there without fear, and expresses the hope to reach over a distance down the barbed wire considering it Palestinian land which was occupied.

She points her hand towards the watchtower overlooking the land and says “Look at the automatic weapon at the top of the tower, it always shoots at us,” and tries to keep us out of our land, and we are powerless, we only escape and return to our homes.

Farmers are forced sometimes to make use of some international activists to protect them during the harvest seasons of crops which makes them feel safe.

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