August 11, 2015

For the past few years, Israel has enforced a “no-go zone” (commonly referred to as the “buffer zone”) all along the fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip. Gaza residents are prevented from approaching this area. Gisha’s attempts to receive accurate information regarding the width of the zone and the mechanism set up to coordinate the entry of farmers to their lands within it, have yielded contradictory answers over the years.

For example, after Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) posted on its website (English) that farmers were allowed to advance up to 100 meters from  the fence. Less than a month later, on March 11, 2013, the IDF spokesperson replied to a query made by Gisha that “residents of the Gaza Strip are required not to come any closer than 300 meters from the security fence” (Hebrew) and did not mention that there were certain exemptions for farmers. It was only after an additional letter from Gisha that the IDF spokesperson replied (Hebrew), on April 21, 2013 that farmers were allowed into the “no-go zone” but that the means used to identify and remove people who were not farmers involved “operational elements” which could not be divulged.

At the end of Operation Protective Edge, Gisha asked to receive the army’s current policy regarding the “no-go zone” and the prohibitions against entering it. On March 8, 2015, Gisha sent the IDF spokesperson a request for information on the policy in effect in the no-go zone (Hebrew), including the maximum distance from the fence which Gaza Strip residents were allowed to approach, who was allowed to enter the prohibited zone itself and what procedures or regulations were used for coordinating entry into it. Gisha also asked about the army’s policy for the entry of farmers into the “no-go zone” to cultivate their fields.

On July 7, 2015, Gisha received the IDF spokesman’s response (Hebrew), according to which residents of the Gaza Strip are permitted to approach by foot, without coordination or limitations, up to a distance of 100 meters from the fence. This response contradicted previous answers we received from the IDF spokesperson after Operation Pillar of Defense, noted above, as well as what was reported in the media, according to which the “no-go zone” was 300 meters wide. In order to ascertain what the current policy is, Gisha sent the IDF spokesperson a request for clarifications.

On August 11, 2015, Gisha received a second response from the IDF spokesperson (Hebrew), in which he retracted this figure and confirmed that the distance Gaza Strip residents were allowed to approach was in fact 300 meters from the fence. The IDF spokesperson confirmed that only farmers were allowed to come closer, up to a distance of 100 meters from the fence, but on foot only, without vehicles. At the same time, the spokesperson confirmed (again, contrary to his previous answers) that there was currently no coordinating mechanism for the entry of farmers into the area between 300 and 100 meters from the fence and there was also no limitation on the number of farmers allowed into this area. Thus, we are left wondering how the army distinguishes between farmers and “ordinary residents” who are present in the area between 300 and 100 meters from the fence.