Live fire, access restrictions, and aerial herbicide spraying: A new report by Gisha reveals how Israel employs unlawful tactics to control areas of land and sea deep inside the Gaza Strip

Thursday, August 2, 2018:  A new report released today by Gisha, Closing In, reviews and analyzes Israel’s control over areas on land and at sea deep inside the Palestinian territory, commonly referred to as the “Access Restricted Areas” (ARAs); the “buffer zone” along the fence separating Israel from Gaza, and the “fishing zone” in Gaza’s sea space. The report exposes the impact of enforcement measures employed by Israel against what it perceives as breaches of its directives in the ARAs, including use of live fire on fishermen, herders and farmers. It also sheds light on other destructive practices Israel employs, such as aerial herbicide spraying, resulting in far-reaching damage to cultivated farmland.

The multimedia report is the product of extensive research, based on in-depth interviews with individuals who make a living farming, fishing, and herding in the ARAs in Gaza, as well as two focus groups with women farmers and herders. Among other things, Closing In points to how years of uncertainty surrounding the distances at which Israel unilaterally enforces its restrictions in the ARAs at land and at sea have decreased Gaza residents’ sense of security and harmed livelihoods. The report combines personal testimonies, video footage, photography, and research data, as well as visual depictions of the ARAs, and a timeline relating to the restrictions imposed by Israel at sea since the Oslo Accords.

One section of the report reviews information exposed by Gisha in the past two years through Freedom of Information requests and petitions with respect to aerial herbicide spraying conducted by Israel near Gaza’s perimeter fence since late 2014. The chemical agents used have destroyed crops and grazing pastures as far as a kilometer away from the fence, inside Palestinian territory. The spraying leads to severe financial losses and endangers the health of farmers and herders, many of whom are women, and other residents of the area. Since the spraying began, nearly 22,000 dunams (around 5,400 acres) of land have sustained damage, of which about 8,000 dunams (nearly 2,000 acres) are grazing lands damaged in the last six months.

Though the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip has severe implications for everyday life in Gaza, Israel continues to flout its duty to protect the basic rights of the civilian population whose fate it controls. For more than a decade, and long before the recent wave of protests in Gaza began, the restrictions Israel has imposed in the buffer and fishing zones through aggressive enforcement tactics have resulted in death, injury, heavy damage to property, the collapse of two major economic sectors, and have hindered economic growth. Israel must end its destructive and disproportionate actions and enable Palestinian residents of Gaza, including members of the farming, herding and fishing communities, to lead normal lives.

To view the report Closing In, click here.

For a PDF version, click here.