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UN Report: IDF Barring Gazans' Access to Farms, Fishing Zones

Humanitarian affairs office: Israel restricts entry to 17% of Gaza lands, 85% of beachfront zone, enforces restrictions with live fire.

Akiva Eldar

Palestinian fishermen preparing their boats before leaving the Gaza City port to fish on the Mediterranean sea. (Photo by: AP)

Over the last ten years, the Israel Defense
Forces have increasingly restricted Palestinian access to farmland on
the Gazan side of the Israeli-Gaza border as well as to fishing zones
along the Gaza beach, a United Nations report revealed Thursday.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) wrote in the report, complied in cooperation with the
World Food Program (WFP), that Israel's justification for these
restrictions was the prevention of attacks on Israel, including the
firing of rockets.

The report was compiled in an effort to understand the extent of the
restrictions as well as their effect on the Palestinians' sense of
personal security, their ability to make a living and their ability to
access services. The report was based on more than 100 interviews and
focus group meetings, as well as the analysis of data gathered from
other sources.

According to the report, since 2008 the IDF has prevented access to
land up to 1,500 meters outside the Green Line, and to naval zones up to
4.5 kilometers from the shore. All in all the IDF restricts access to
17 percent of Gaza's territory. At sea, the fishermen are completely
barred from 85 percent of the naval territory to which they are entitled
under the Oslo Accords.

The report estimates that some 178,000 individuals are directly affected by these access restrictions.

According to OCHA, the IDF enforces uses life fire on individuals who
enter restricted zones. Though in most cases the troops fire warning
shots, 22 people have been killed and 146 have been wounded in such
incidents since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. The
report further argues that this method of enforcement violates
international humanitarian law, and that the local Palestinian
population was never informed by Israel of the exact nature of the

The research conducted by OCHA also suggested that the IDF has
leveled farmland and destroyed personal property situated in restricted
areas in efforts to keep Palestinians out. The farmers who own the lands
have tried to make up the lost income with alternate forms of farming,
the report argues, but their ability to harvest their crops is limited
and the profits from the alternate methods comprise a fraction of the
income generated on the original land. OCHA estimated some $308 million
in losses as a direct result of the Israeli restrictions.

Most of the farmers interviewed for the report said that since the
expansion of the restricted zone they have lost more than two thirds of
their income. Others reported that their income has been entirely
eliminated. The same was true for Gaza fishermen, who have lost an
estimated $26.5 million over the last five years.

Other effects of the restrictions include the deterioration in the
quality of food consumed by Gazans, gradual changes in diet (from fresh
produce and meat to carbohydrate-rich cheap items), decrease in school
attendance and a decrease in the age of marriage for girls, the report

The IDF policy also affects access to schools, seven of which are
inside restricted areas, the students' and teachers' security, the
quality of education and academic achievements, the report argued.

OCHA called on Israel to lift the restrictions immediately and
fulfill it international humanitarian obligation. The organization
especially stressed its call on Israel to refrain from opening fire at
civilians and destroying their personal property.

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