Friday 1 February 2013

A Day in the Life of a Gazan Farmer

Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip
29th January, 2013

In the far north of the Gaza Strip, in the rural border area to the east of Beit Hanoun, farmers continued their daily struggle to work on their land. International volunteers from Spain, Germany, France and the UK accompanied farmers and Palestinian activists from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative as they harvested cabbages in the light drizzle, whilst singing Palestinian folk songs. It would have been an idyllic pastoral scene if it weren't for the military jeeps and watchtowers on the border 400 metres away.

Photo courtesy of Desde Palestina

At about 11.00 a.m. we heard shots fired from the border. Unknown to us at the time, a small group of farm labourers had been tending olive and lemon trees about 300 metres away from the cabbage patch. 21 year-old Mamdouh Al-Kafarna had been shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers.

The farm labourers said they saw two Israeli military jeeps stop at the border fence so they left their work fearing that the soldiers in the jeeps may begin shooting. After the jeeps drove away the labourers thought it would be safe to return and continue their work.

However, on their return they realised that the jeeps had left two soldiers on the ground between the trees near the border fence. Apparently they were wearing foliage as camouflage. The soldiers began shooting towards the labourers and Mamdouh was injured in both legs by the same bullet. It brushed his right leg then entered and exited his left leg.

As he fell, Mamdouh saw the soldiers cross to the Palestinian side of the fence and enter the Gaza Strip a short distance. At the sight of them running towards him, Mamdouh was afraid they might abduct or even kill him. He desperately tried to get away even though moving must have been incredibly difficult due to his injuries and by this stage he had become separated from his fellow workers.

Amazingly, he managed to escape to safety and was evacuated from the area by donkey cart. He was eventually transferred to Beit Hanoun Hospital. Mamdouh is the eldest son in his family and only he and his father have work, supporting 20 people at home.

 Photo courtesy of Desde Palestina

The farmers explained that last year it had been too dangerous for them to access this land but they had attempted it now believing it to be safe due to the ceasefire. Unfortunately this is not the case. According to staff at Beit Hanoun Hospital, nearly 30 civilians have been injured in the northern border areas since last November.

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