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From the field

Testimony: Farmers near Israel-Gaza border forced to risk their lives to make a living, September 2011

Yusef Abu Magheisib, farmer

Yusef Abu MagheisibI am married and have nine children, the eldest is 16 and the youngest is one year old. We live about 900 meters east of the village Wadi a-Salqa, north of the Kissufim encampment.

I used to work in agriculture in Israel and earned a good salary. From 2003, the Israelis didn’t allow laborers to work in Israel, and I lost my income. I began to work on 70 dunams (70,000 sq m) of land belonging to my family that is very close to the border, about 300 meters north of the Kissufim army post. I grew almonds, olives, and dates on the land. I rented out the olive orchard for 8,000 Jordanian Dinars a year and made income from working the rest of the land. Our financial situation was stable.

In 2005, army bulldozers cleared my land, uprooting all the trees, without giving me any prior notice. I don’t know why they did it.

From 2005 to 2007, I couldn’t get to my land at all. Whenever I tried, the army fired at me. I sat at home for two years, unemployed. Because of the shortage and my family’s demands, I started to work for some farmers. Rather than own land and hire laborers, I became a laborer working for somebody else.

Since 2007, I’ve been able to get to some of my land and work it, a total of seven dunams (7,000 sq m). I grow seasonal crops – cucumbers, eggplant, and squash. I planted about 60 olive trees. The rest of the land, about 60 dunams (60,000 sq m), is not under cultivation because it runs along the border. The 400 meters by the border I can’t get to at all because the army fires at me when I approach. At times, army bulldozers come and clear a 400-meter area west of the perimeter fence.

I also suffer from the army posts along the border. Every day, from 7:00 to 7:30 in the morning, they patrol the area and fire arbitrarily, especially when it is cloudy. In many cases, the shots hit my house. It is pure luck that my sons and I haven’t been hit by the gunfire since there were times that the bullets hit the ground around where we were sitting and resting. I can’t go to work in the field until the patrols end.

The tractor drivers are afraid to work on my land, so I have to plow the land, driving the tractor myself while the tractor’s owner stands far away, out of fear. Obviously, I don’t plow as well as a professional tractor driver does, but I have no option. I also can’t bring in laborers to help me, so I have to work with my small children.

Yusef Ahmad Muhammad Abu Magheisib, 37, married with nine children, is a farmer and lives in Wadi-a-Salqa, Deir al-Balah District, Gaza Strip. The testimony was given to Khaled ‘Azayzeh on 19 September 2011 at the witness’s house.