Youssef Abu Mghasib (38) owns 10 dunnums of farmland in Deir el Balah, in the central part of the Gaza Strip, just over 300 meters from the Gaza-Israeli border and beyond Israel ’s unilaterally imposed 300 meter buffer zone.
Here, he grows olives and an assortment of vegetables to support his family, though Youssef lives with wife, 9 children, mother and sister in a home 500 meters from their farm. On 12 June 2012, Youssef’s land was bulldozed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).
On the day of the bulldozing, Youssef recalls that: “I was watering plants on my farm when I heard the sound of the bulldozers and tanks. I could also hear heavy shooting. I was really scared that something would happen to me, so I ran home. The bulldozers came and destroyed all of my olive trees and crushed my vegetables. My irrigation system was completely destroyed. Nothing could be salvaged from the land. Then, just 4 days later, they came back with their tanks and leveled the land until all of it was finally flat.”
The bulldozing of Abu Mghasib’s land has subsequently plunged the family into financial and emotional turmoil: “I felt completely destroyed when they bulldozed my farm. I had been cultivating that land since 2001, when my father died and left it to me. It was destroyed in the Second Intifada, but I had worked very hard to plant new olive trees and put in an irrigation system. My mother had a nervous breakdown when they were bulldozing the land. She was shouting and crying and we had to rush her to hospital. My wife was also hysterical.”
The loss of Youssef’s land and equipment is estimated to be USD 20,000: “My land is not even within the 300 meters considered to be the buffer zone, yet it was destroyed. My irrigation pipes are now useless. I used to feed my family from that land and sell the extra produce in the market. I currently have no other source of income and no other occupation. When the opportunity arises, I work on other people’s farms to make a few shekels. Life has just been hard since 12 June. I had taken out a loan before the land was destroyed to rebuild the farm. Now, I have no way of paying back this loan. My neighbors gave me a bale of wheat because we have nothing to eat, but it will not feed us forever. It pains me that I could not even afford to buy my children school bags.”
Youssef admits that he is resigned to a life of abject poverty and sees no hope for himself or his family: “My children are well aware of our situation and the troubles we are facing. They told me that they just want to live a normal life. I also want that, but I have lost all hope now. I am struggling to find food and to clothe my family. It is a lot of pressure and I have a lot of anger and sadness inside me. I just think about providing for my family all day. Don’t my children deserve sweets like other children? They don’t even ask for anything anymore, because they know we have nothing. I have nowhere else to go and I know that, even if I plant again, Israel will come and take it away. Every day is worse than the one before. What is there left to hope for?”
The direct targeting of a civilian object constitutes a war crime, as codified in Article 8(2)(b)(ii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Similarly, under the Fourth Geneva Convention Article 53, the destruction of private property is prohibited unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. Subsequent attacks against private property in the buffer zone constitutes a violation of numerous human rights provisions, including the right to an adequate standard of living, contained in Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Video narrative given by Ahmad Eslayeh please click here.
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