Israel fires on Gaza as it claims to “ease” siege

More than ninety persons have been shot by Israeli forces in the “buffer zone” along Gaza’s boundary with Israel. (Anne Paq/

Israeli tanks opened fire east of Gaza City today, injuring three Palestinians near the so-called “buffer zone.” A few hours earlier Israeli fighter jets launched two airstrikes in southern Gaza, where another man was wounded.

Israeli missiles struck a poultry farm in Khan Younis, wounding a Palestinian man and damaging the farm, Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency reported. Another missile destroyed a tunnel along the Egypt border with Gaza (“3 injured by Israeli shelling in Gaza,” 8 December 2010).

The airstrikes and tank fire came after Palestinian armed resistance groups fired homemade rockets from the central Gaza area at Israeli military installations and soldiers, Ma’an added. On the evening of 6 December, Palestinian armed fighters launched several rockets into open areas across the boundary with Israel.

The armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, “claimed to have fired three mortar shells at an Israeli force as it penetrated the [boundary] in the central strip … In a statement, the brigades said Israeli vehicles crossed the Gaza [boundary] east of the al-Bureij refugee camp, where they were ambushed” (“Brigades claim clash with Israeli forces overnight,” Ma’an News Agency, 7 December 2010).

The rocket fire and Israeli strikes come after Israeli forces killed two Palestinians near the boundary with Israel on 2 December. The Israeli military claimed the two men were killed while trying to infiltrate a kibbutz on the other side of the boundary. “Army spokespersons said the two men were ‘approaching the [boundary]’ but were killed inside the Gaza Strip by either a barrage of at least 15 artillery shells or a small invasion force of Israeli tanks and aircraft, which came later,” reported the Palestine News Network (“At least two killed in Gaza; Army claims attempted infiltration,” 2 December 2010).

The Israeli military claimed that the Palestinian men were “armed,” and that weapons and explosives were found on their bodies.

Additionally, in three separate incidents last week, Israeli forces shot and injured Palestinian laborers who were collecting scrap metal and industrial aggregate material near the so-called “buffer zone.”

Ninety shot in “buffer zone” since March

The “buffer zone” is a 300-meter-wide militarized area that “extends along the entire northern and eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip’s [boundary] with Israel, inside Palestinian territory, as well as the sea,” according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (“The Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip (October 2010 Update)”,” 10 October 2010).

A laborer collecting stones and rubble in the northern Gaza Strip was shot in the leg by Israeli snipers, according to the International Middle East Media Center. “An Israeli military spokesperson said that forces opened fire with warning shots at some people who were approaching the northern [boundary], which the Israeli army considers a combat and live fire zone,” IMEMC reported (“Gazan worker injured after being shot by Israeli troops,” 1 December 2010).

Two days later, on 3 December, Ma’an reported that a 20-year-old Palestinian man was shot by an Israeli sniper as he collected raw industrial materials near the northern boundary area (“88th worker shot in northern Gaza ‘no go zone’,” 3 December 2010)

The following day Israeli forces shot and wounded two other Palestinian men while they collected scrap metal in the no-go zone, bringing the total number of persons shot and injured by Israeli sniper fire in Gaza since March 2010 to ninety, according to Ma’an, citing statistics from the regional ambulance and emergency paramedic services (“Israeli fire injures 3 in north, central Gaza Strip,” 4 December 2010).That same day, a man was also shot by Israeli forces near his home in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, Ma’an added. The man was working near his home when Israeli snipers opened fire in the area, according to Ma’an.

Israeli cabinet approves bid to open industrial crossing

Meanwhile, Israel’s security cabinet approved a bid to open a single industrial crossing between Gaza and Israel — Kerem Shalom (Karm abu Salem) — and approved limited exports from Gaza to the outside world. Israeli daily Haaretz reported that furniture, farming products and light industrial products will be allowed to be exported from Gaza (“Israel allows more exports from Gaza to West Bank and abroad,” 8 December 2010).

“The exports from Gaza to foreign countries will be unrestricted, while exports to the West Bank will be for specific projects in coordination with the Palestinian Authority,” Haaretz reported. Under the plan, officials with the Fatah-led, Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority would return to the Gaza Strip to administer the export process, four years after Hamas’ political takeover following that party’s electoral victory.

Ma’an reported on 7 December that Kerem Shalom crossing will also be open for imports of humanitarian aid, fuel and commercial goods and three truckloads of construction material for United Nations-run projects (“Single Gaza crossing operates,” 7 December 2010). However, Ma’an added, the second crossing in the north, used for the importing of wheat, animal feed and construction materials, “was closed despite warnings from UN officials about a looming wheat crisis. The crossing operates twice a week, and has done so since August 2009.”

During Israel’s winter 2008-09 attacks on the Gaza Strip, tens of thousands of homes and apartments, commercial buildings and schools, including UN buildings, were damaged or destroyed. Israel’s blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since June 2007 has restricted or disallowed outright the import of raw construction materials, humanitarian aid supplies and fuel. Because of the restrictions on raw construction materials, such as concrete, Palestinian laborers and industrial workers have been forced to scavenge for rubble near or inside the no-go zone near the boundary with Israel.

The Israeli parliament says its move to “ease” the blockade is a way to “have a positive impact on Israel’s stance in the international community,” according to Haaretz. However, UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) Director of Operations John Ging asserted that the humanitarian situation remains “bleak” (“Despite easing of Gaza blockade, situation still desperate, UN official warns,” UN News, 1 December 2010).

Ging said that there continues to be an 80 percent “aid dependency among Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants,” and added “[t]he water situation is in crisis. Ninety percent, according to the World Health Organization calculations, is unfit for human consumption, [and] 80 million cubic liters of sewage continues to be pumped out into the Mediterranean every single day untreated.”