Feature: Gaza farmers plant lands near Israeli borders after 12-year ban

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-31 16:10:25|Editor: Lifang
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GAZA, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Anwar al-Dobari, a Palestinian farmer, could not hide his happiness after he managed to enter his farm in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah for the first time in 12 years since Israel imposed a buffer zone along its borders with Gaza.

Al-Dobari was able to reach his 12-dunum (12,000-square meters) land in the village of Al-Shoka, east of Rafah for several hours after a security coordination between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Israeli authorities.

"I'm extremely happy that my feet touched my farmland after these longs years," the farmer in his 40s said as he started to sow wheat seeds.

He said wheat can grow on rain water and does not need too much care, adding that the Israeli forces do not allow growing high plants like trees, since they may block vision for boarder guarding.

The buffer zone was established after the Oslo Accords signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel in the early 1990s. It was later expanded unilaterally by the Israelis.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, the buffer zone takes up 17 percent of Gaza's total land, making up to 35 percent of available farmland unsafe, with areas close to the border fence being the most restricted.

"After three months, we will return to harvest the crop under the supervision of the ICRC," said al-Dobari, who is the bread-winner for a 10-member family. "We hope Israeli will allow us to harvest."

He appealed to international organizations to pressure Israel to let farmers access their land freely so they can cultivate their crops.

The whole Gaza Strip has been placed under a tight Israeli blockade since Islamic Hamas movement seized the territory by force in 2007.

In the recent six years, Israel and Hamas movement have been engaged in three major wars that claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

Israel launched a major war against Hamas in Gaza during the summer of 2014. The offensive killed around 2,200 Palestinians and wounded 11,000 others. Some 70 Israelis were killed during the conflict.

Although the cease-fire agreement that was reached after the war allows access to areas within 100 meters from the fence, Palestinian farmers complain that anyone could be in danger by stepping inside areas 500 meters away from the border.

In recent three years, the ICRC has succeeded, in collaboration with the ministries of agriculture and interior in Gaza as well as the Israeli authorities, to enable farmers in the Gaza Strip to access their lands, which locate between 100-300 meters from border.

"ICRC teams do their best to help farmers reach their lands safely," said Osama al-Mukhalalati, head of the IRCR agricultural program.

He added that farming also helps improve the economy of Gaza.