Israeli troops enter Gaza every three days - Oxfam

Palestinian fishermen hold banners during a protest against the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip at Gaza City’s harbor, 10 October.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Israel’s military incursions into the besieged, occupied Gaza Strip increased sharply in September.

Israeli ground forces entered the occupied territory nine times in September, up from twice in August, according to UK-based development agency Oxfam in its October report on the situation in Gaza.

That’s about once every three days.

Shooting at farmers

There was also a 30 percent increase in fire by Israeli occupation forces toward Palestinians in farmland along the Gaza boundary since July and August.

The “Israeli army has fired warning shots at farmers, forcing them to leave, and conducted land leveling operations,” Oxfam said.

“On 30 September, Israeli military shot and killed a Palestinian man approximately 400 meters from the fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel,” Oxfam reported.

“In a separate incident, Israeli military shot and injured another man approximately 200 meters from the fence, before detaining him. According to their families, the two men were attempting to cross into Israel in search of work.”

Constant ceasefire violations

In total, seven Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and 124 injured by Israeli military forces since the announcement of the ceasefire in November 2012 after a week of intense Israeli bombardment, Oxfam said.

Overall, the escalating level of military attacks by Israel could not be explained as a response to any increase in military operations by resistance groups in Gaza.

In September a total of ten homemade rockets or mortars were fired from Gaza, causing no damage or injuries – exactly the same number as in August.

Food beyond reach

The increase in violence by Israeli occupation forces comes as Gaza’s population of almost 1.7 million continues to suffer extreme hardship as a result of the Israeli siege.

Egypt’s systematic destruction of tunnels under its border since the 3 July military coup has made the situation far worse.

These tunnels have been a lifeline for basic supplies.

The result has been “fuel shortages and increasingly high prices of basic commodities such as rice, cooking oil and bread,” according to Oxfam.

In September, 1,588 truckloads of food entered Gaza through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing – still well below the monthly average of 1,768 in 2005, the year before the siege was imposed.

“Israel does not restrict entry of food supplies through Kerem Shalom,” Oxfam said.

“However, these are expensive and much of the Gaza population, largely impoverished by the blockade, has become dependent on cheaper goods entering through the tunnels from Egypt. Any changes are immediately felt by the 70 percent of people in Gaza who are already food insecure or struggling to feed their families.”

The amount of construction materials entering Gaza is currently only around a third of 2005 levels. Israel does severely restrict what can come in.

Recently, Israel announced it would allow in a slightly greater amount of construction supplies – seventy truckloads per day – but Israel halted this on 13 October after it claimed it found an underground tunnel from Gaza into Israel.

This continues to cause dire hardships for families unable to rebuild their homes, and continues to delay the construction of 250 schools needed for Gaza’s children.

Unable to fish

The Israeli maritime blockade and the doubling of fuel prices continue to devastate Gaza’s fishing industry.

Issa, a fisherman profiled by Oxfam, said that often there was no point going out to sea as there were no fish within the three miles of shore Israel allowed the fisherman to fish.

“After the tunnels were gradually shut down by Egypt from July 2013, reducing access to affordable Egyptian fuel, Issa has been left in a more desperate situation than ever, with daily fuel costs rising from $17 to $34,” Oxfam said.

“The blockade has left Issa and 95 percent of fishermen in Gaza in need of humanitarian assistance.”

Deeply in debt, Issa had earned just $2.50 on the day Oxfam spoke to him, to feed a family of fifty.

Gaza fishermen now also face a new danger: harassment and armed attacks by armed Egyptian vessels.

Since 2000 the number of registered fishermen has declined from around 10,000, to only 3,500, Oxfam said.

End the blockade

Oxfam called on Israel “to allow Palestinian fishermen to access the 20 [nautical mile] zone agreed in the Oslo accords.”

“The government of Israel must end the blockade which amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population,” the group added.

“The destruction of the tunnels, a coping mechanism developed as a result of six years of blockade, has made an already precarious situation even worse; exposing the real impact of blockade on ordinary people.”