A group of Palestinians have demonstrated on the border between the eastern Gaza Strip and the land occupied in 1948 which now forms part of Israel. They carried Palestinian flags and appealed for the siege of Gaza to be lifted to ease the suffering of the people of the beleaguered territory. The sit-in was organised mainly by farmers and Palestinians from other professional backgrounds to protest against the Israelis’ destruction of Palestinian land and water sources using heavy bulldozers.
Many Palestinian farmers have had to delay the planting of their crops this year because of the absence of water and the threat from Israeli soldiers along the border. Most of Gaza’s border region wells, cisterns and water lines were destroyed by Israeli forces during last year’s invasion, and farmers have been largely left with no option but to wait for heavier rains.
Farming lands are also ravaged by Israeli bulldozers and tanks on a regular basis, almost as a matter of routine. The bulldozing started in 2003, and was still going on days before the assault on Gaza. As a result of this, only wheat – if anything at all can be planted.
Water sources in particular were hard hit during last year’s Israeli attack on Gaza. A United Nations Development Programme survey following the invasion found that nearly 14,000 irrigation channels and pipelines were destroyed, along with 250 wells and 327 water pumps completely damaged, and another 53 wells partially damaged, by Israeli bombing and bulldozing. Farmers now have to deliver water via plastic containers or wait for heavy rains in order to salvage some of their crops.
Since the siege was imposed on Gaza nearly four years ago, the destruction of the Strip’s agricultural sector and potential to provide produce for, and thus boost the economy of, the severely undernourished population, has reduced dramatically. Farming is one of the few sources of income left for Palestinians in Gaza; they, more than anyone else, should be allowed to “reap what they sow”.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad