Palestinian farmers, along with Israeli and international activists, demonstrate in front of a military gate in the northern West Bank, calling to relax Israeli restrictions on access to their land.
Photos and text by Ahmad Al-Bazz and Haidi Motola / Activestills.org
Approximately 100 Palestinian farmers protested on Sunday morning in front of an Israeli military gate in the northern West Bank, calling on the army to ease restrictions on their daily journey through the gate, which separates them from their land.
Joined by some 10 anti-occupation Israeli activists and several international human rights observers, the farmers refused to cross through Military Gate 623, part of Israel’s separation barrier, instead calling on the army to renew expired entry permits for their family members, to issue permits for their workers, and to open the gate earlier than 7 a.m. on a daily basis, due to the recent heatwave.
After an hour of protesting, Israeli soldiers closed the gate and declared that the time to cross has passed. Later, an Israeli officer came to listen to the farmers’ complaints, under the condition that photographers journalists stay away. Following the discussion, the Deir Al Ghusun municipality announced that the military promised to resolve the problems as soon as possible.
Gate 623 is used by the famers of the towns Deir Al Ghusun and Attil, and separates the towns’ built-up areas from 500 acres of agricultural fields — despite the fact that both are located in the West Bank.
The gate is opened by soldiers three times a day at 7 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m, and is kept open for approximately half an hour to allow farmers to cross back and forth.
Adulrahman Aref, an 82-year-old agricultural engineer and farmer, owns 10 acres beyond the fence. “I cross to secure the land from being confiscated, although I am losing it,” he told +972 Magazine. Aref says that around 35 percent of his olive trees went unpicked last season due to the lack of workers permits.
Furthermore, Aref claims that the soldiers manning the gate usually arrive late. “If we arrive five minutes too late, we cannot cross, and nobody can ask soldiers to open the gate when they are late,” he continues.
Osama Abulmonem, a farmer from Deir Al Ghusun, told +972 that during the past six months, neither his sons nor his workers managed to gain permits to cross, leaving his greenhouses unattended.
The fence at Deir Al Ghusun, part of the 440 mile-long separation barrier, was constructed at the height of the Second Intifada in 2002, under the pretext of security and in order to prevent armed attacks by Palestinian militants. The wall, which encircles the West Bank and cuts into it in some areas, is about twice the length of the Green Line. In 2004, The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion saying that Israel’s wall is illegal and must be dismantled.
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