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Welcome to Al-HaqÕs Virtual Field Visit on IsraelÕs enforcement of the Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip has an area of 360 square km with a population of about 1.6 million, most of whom are refugees. Since Israel withdrew its forces and illegal settler population from the territory in 2005 the Gaza Strip has been placed under a military blockade. It is surrounded by a fence and the crossing points are controlled by Israel, to the North and East, and Egypt to the South.
The so-called buffer zone is a military no-go area that extends along the entirety of the Gaza StripÕs border with Israel as well as at sea. The buffer zone allegedly responds to the Occupying PowerÕs legitimate security concerns; yet, IsraelÕs unilateral expansion of this restricted area and its enforcement mechanisms seriously infringe upon the rights of protected persons and cause many civilian casualties.
The Buffer Zone at sea (1:12)
Since the beginning of the second Intifada Israel has been progressively implementing restrictions on fishermenÕs access to the sea.
The initial 20 Nautical Miles (NM) agreed under the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement between Israel and the PLO was reduced to 12 NM under the never implemented 2002 Bertini Commitment.
In 2006, the fishing zone was reduced to 6 NM off the coast and two years later to just 3 NM.
Palestinians are also prohibited from accessing narrow strips along the maritime boundaries with Israel and Egypt to the North and South.
Overall, Palestinians are prevented from accessing 85 per cent of the maritime areas they are entitled to according to the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement.
Buffer zone on land (2:00)
Currently, the buffer zone on land extends over approximately 17 per cent of the territory of the Gaza Strip and, depending on the specific area, farmers are effectively prevented from accessing land located up to 1,500 meters from the fence. 95 per cent of the restricted area is arable, meaning that that buffer zone takes up over a third the Gaza StripÕs agricultural land.
In January 2009 the IsraelÕs air force dropped thousands of pamphlets along the border areas of the Gaza Strip warning that anyone found within 300 metres of the border would be eliminated.
However in reality Palestinians have come under severe threat anywhere within 1000m of the border and in some places, as much as 1500m. Opening fire at people accessing this area, as well as land leveling and property destruction, are common and widespread practices; however, they are carried out irregularly and unpredictably.
The precise depth and overall size of the buffer zone are uncertain as are the parameters defining access to the restricted area.
Although the Occupying Power carries out land incursions into the buffer zone an average of 3-4 times every week and naval forces continuously patrol the coast, the buffer zone is not physically demarcated. Additionally, the Occupying Power has failed to effectively inform the civilian population in the Gaza Strip of the extent of the buffer zone and the applicable regime.
Israeli occupying forces often use live ammunition to enforce the buffer zone, both on land and at sea. Since the beginning of 2010, stone-collectors have been increasingly under attack by Israeli soldiers. In 2009, Al-Haq documented seven cases of rubble collectors injured by live ammunition in the vicinity of the buffer zone, whereas this number was 10 times higher during 2010, when 68 rubble collectors, of whom 15 children, were shot.
Fishermen are also targeted on a daily basis with many incidents occurring outside the buffer zone. In some cases, the Israeli occupying forces fire rockets and shoot bullets at the Palestinian boats at sea or on the shore in order to destroy them, thus preventing the fishermen from working.
A sample of the Al HaqÕs documentation is presented on this map. The tour will now continue by looking in detail at two cases of the use excessive force the Israeli military.
Stone-collector shot and killed (4:35)
On 28 February 2011, Israeli occupying forces shot and killed 20 year old ŌUmar ŌArfeh MaÕrouf, in Beit Lahiya near the northern Gaza Strip borders as he was trying to collect rubble from a dismantled Israeli settlement.
That morning UmarÕs cousin had warned him not to go as he had previously seen other stone collectors shot in that area. However Umar insisted on going as he was suffering severe financial problems preventing him from providing food for his family.
Fishermen killed at sea by Israeli forces (5:08)
In another incident, on the 24th September 2010, 20 year old Muhammad Mansour ŌUmar Bakr was accompanying his cousins on a fishing trip. Whilst fishing within the 3nm buffer zone limit they were approached by an Israeli naval ship. The soldiers on board opened fire without warning and soon after Muhammad was hit by a bullet in the chest. Some of the fishermen attempted to take Muhammad to a hospital but he was dead before they arrived.
The others stayed behind in an attempt to persuade the soldiers to follow and administer first aid. They refused and soon left the area.
Click on the map (5:45)
When the tour has finished try clicking on the other blue icons for more examples of how Al-Haq have documented cases of excessive force used by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians.
Read Al-HaqÕs report (5:55)
For more detailed information about IsraelÕs Enforcement of the Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip including a legal analysis click the button at the top and follow the link to Al HaqÕs report.
The End (6:08)
Thank you for taking the time to watch this Tour. To see more of Al-HaqÕs Virtual Field Visits click the button in the menu bar at the top of the page.