Israeli forces shoot unarmed demonstrators in Gazan ‘buffer zone’
El Maghazi, Deir Al Balah, Gaza, Occupied Palestinian Territories, 24th April 2010, 12PM – At a peaceful nonviolent demonstration against the forceful cessation of farming within what Israel defines as a “buffer zone,” which was attended by 150 people, two Palestinians demonstrators and one International activist were shot. Israeli soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators from the border fence. Nidal Al Naji (18) was shot in the right thigh. Hind Al Akra (22) was shot in the stomach and is undergoing emergency surgery. Bianca Zimmit (28) from Malta was filming the demonstration when she was shot in her left thigh. The wounded are currently being treated in Al Aqsa Hospital.
Shortly after 11 a.m., women and men, including 6 ISM activists, marched from Al Maghazi towards the Israeli fence closing off the Gaza strip. After being met with live ammunition upon cresting a ridge, some demonstrators continued walking forward. This group included six women, two ISM activists and 20 men. The 20 male demonstrators reached the border fence. Zimmit was shot while filming the demonstration between the ridge and the fence, at a distance of roughly 80-100 meters. Hind Al Akra, also standing between the ridge and the fence, was shot in the stomach, and Niadal al Naji was shot in the leg near the fence. Demonstrators carried the wounded back across rough terrain to taxis for transport to Al-Aqsa Hospital.
The demonstrations are held in protest against the arbitrary decision by Israel to instate a 300 metre buffer zone as no-go area for Palestinians where “shoot to kill” policy is implemented. People have been shot regularly as far as 2 kilometres away from the border. Popular Campaign for the Security in the Buffer Zone, an umbrella organization that includes organizations representing farmers and Gaza residents living near the border, and also a number of political parties are present at many of these demonstrations.
Those venturing to the border regions to gather rubble and steel do so as a result of the siege on Gaza which, along with Israel’s 23 day winter war on Gaza, has decimated Gaza’s economy, including 95 percent of Gaza’s factories and businesses, according to the United Nations. Additionally, these recycled construction materials are vital in Gaza where the Israeli-led siege bans all but under 40 items from entering.
The siege prevents vitally needed construction materials from entering Gaza, where over 6,400 houses were destroyed or severely damaged in the Israeli war on Gaza, and nearly 53,000 sustained lesser damages. Hospitals and medical centres, schools, kindergartens and mosques are among the other buildings destroyed and damaged during the Israeli war on Gaza.
The latest in a growing number of non-violent protesters shot by well-armed Israeli soldiers, three unarmed demonstrators –two Palestinians and one international–were injured this afternoon by Israeli soldiers’ firing with live ammunition at a protest east of El Meghazi, central Gaza Strip. One week prior, Mahmoud Shawa, 19, was shot just below his knee by an Israeli soldier while demonstrating near the Nahal Oz crossing, eastern Gaza. March 30, four Palestinians were shot by armed Israeli soldiers while participating in non-violent demonstrations against the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone”. Three of the four were injured by bullets or bullet shrapnel to their legs, while the fourth was shot in the head.
Bianca Zammit, 28, from Malta was one of three injured by the Israeli soldiers’ shooting today. Zammit, an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) colleague was standing roughly 3 metres to my left, both of us roughly 50 metres from the Green Line border fence separating Gaza and Israel. At the time that Zammit was shot, she was filming the Israeli soldiers’ assault with live ammunition on the unarmed Palestinian protesters, mainly youths, in front of us, who had run up to post flags on the border fence and re-claim the land Palestinians have been run off of by the unilateral Israeli declaration of a no-go zone.
In theory, this “buffer zone” is 300 metres, running from south to north on the Palestinian side of Gaza’s border. In reality, the off-limits area annexes far more than the 300 metre band of land the Israeli authorities state are off-limits: Palestinian civilians have been killed and injured by Israeli shooting and shelling up to 2 km from the border. As well, workers gathering stones and steel for re-sale for construction purposes are routinely abducted by Israeli soldiers and taken into Israeli detention. These people have been driven by siege-induced poverty and desperation to this low-paying work in the border regions.
Shortly before Zammit was shot, a young Palestinian woman –Hind al Akra, 22– participating in the protest was hit by shrapnel from an Israeli-fired bullet which struck nearby her. The shrapnel lodged in her stomach. At the time of treatment in Deir al Balah’s Al Aqsa hospital, it was deemed that Akra would likely need surgery to remove the shrapnel from her abdomen.
The first to be shot today was 18 year old Nidal al Naql, a teen among those nearest the fence. He was targeted in his right thigh. Thankfully, the bullet missed any artery–the terrain of the area is rolling, rough ground, making the evacuations of the injured more time-consuming and difficult.
*[photo: Rada Daniell] Bianca, after having been treated, is visited by Mohammed Ot’ti, one of four demonstrators shot by Israeli soldiers during non-violent Land Day protests on March 30, 2010.
Like those youths shot and injured on Land Day, and the youth of last week, Zammit says when she is healed and able to walk, she will return to the demos, as will the Palestinians, every week, raising their voices against the annexation of their land and targeting of civilians.
“What threat did I pose the Israeli soldiers? What threat did any of us pose them?”
Gaza – Ma'an – Six people were injured, one seriously, by live fire from Israeli forces as Gaza residents and international solidarity activists gathered in the central Strip on Saturday to protest the enforcement of the no go zone.
Eyewitnesses confirmed early security source reports, saying first three, then six were injured, one seriously as protesters marched with Palestinian flags towards the buffer zone area enforced by Israel around the Gaza border.
"The non-violent rally approached the border area to protest the creation of a buffer zone along the borders between Israel and the Gaza Strip," rally coordinator Mahmoud Az-Ziq said.
Coordinator of medical services in the Gaza Strip Adham Abu Silmiyya said three of the six injured were evacuated to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza, with one man in serious condition.
Coordinator of Beit Hanoun popular committee Saber Az-Za'aneen identified the injured foreign activist as 28-year-old Bianca Zimmit from Malta. He said she was hit by live fire in the foot, and confirmed that she was one of the three evacuated to hospital.
A statement from the International Solidarity Movement said Zimmit was shot while filming the demonstration, at a distance of approximately 80-100 meters.
The statement identified the other two hospitalized victims as Nidal Al Naji, 18, who the group said was shot in the right thigh, and Hind Al-Akra, 22, who was shot in the stomach and has undergone emergency surgery.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed shots were fired in the area, but said they were "warning shots meant to drive away" the group of protesters. He noted they were "very close" the the border fence, and area he described as a "combat zone."
The no-go area means 20 percent of the arable lands in Gaza are inaccessible to local farmers, who are fired on by Israeli forces patrolling the area if they approach the buffer.
The zone extends 150-300 meters into the Strip from the Green Line, or the 1967 border, from which Israel claimed to have pulled out in 2005.
The military spokesman said troops could "not allow anyone to be present" in the no-go zone, because it was an area "used by terrorists," and cited several cases of Palestinian militant groups planting explosive devices in the zone.
Militant groups say attacks on Israeli patrols in Gaza are defensive, and an effort to protect what by law is sovereign Palestinian territory, but in reality is under Israeli military occupation.