Testimony: Army harms livelihood of farmers in Gaza who have land near the border with Israel, September 2011

Saleh Abu Muhareb, 54

Saleh Abu Muhareb, 54 54I have two wives and 12 children, eight of whom are married. We all live together, about 900 meters from the border. Together with my sons and nephews, I have a 16-dunam (16,000 sq m) plot of land. In addition, we and a few other families rent about 70 dunams (70,000 sq m) of land, divided into several lots, along the border, east of Wadi a-Salqa. On that land, which has an irrigation system, we grew cauliflower, squash and other crops. This land provides a livelihood for some 45 persons. Sometimes, we hired people to help us work the land.

At the beginning of the second intifada, in 2000-2001, the Israeli army cleared a 16-dunam olive orchard on the land we rented and damaged the well. A year later, we replanted the olive orchard, but the well remained closed. At the present time, of the 70 dunams that we rent, we’ve managed to work only 40 of them. It breaks my heart to look from a distance at the 30 dunams that are not being cultivated.

In 2008, I planted 17 dunams of wheat, but when harvest time came, I couldn’t get to the land because the army fired at us whenever we tried to go there. That year, we lost the entire crop and had no wheat and no straw for the animals. We have 15 sheep, a cow and a horse. This plot still has no crops growing on it.

During the plowing season, the tractor owners refuse to plow land near the border. More than once, the army fired at the tractor that was plowing our land. There is no work in the Gaza Strip, and young people can’t work in other occupations, especially since Israel imposed a siege on Gaza.

The army claims that they fire only at persons who come within 300 meters of the perimeter fence, but that isn’t true. In many cases, soldiers fired at us when we were 600 or 700 meters from the border. Furthermore, they also fire arbitrarily, and the shots reach our house. At night, we hide in our houses and don’t go outside after ten at night because of the scary security situation.

The sound of the gunfire frightens my small grandchildren a lot, and when the army fires bullets and mortars, some of them pee in their pants and others tremble in fear. The roof of our house is made of asbestos and tin. The walls are cracked due to the shaking caused by the mortar shelling in the area, and I’m afraid that the ceiling will collapse on our head. We have no place to go and live, or other land to farm.

Saleh Suliman Salem Abu Muhareb, 54, married with 12 children, is a farmer and lives in Wadi a-Salqa, Deir al-Balah District, Gaza Strip. The testimony was given to Khaled ‘Azayzeh on 22 September 2011 at the witness’s house.