A group of Gazans were allowed to farm their land near the border with Israel for the first time since 2006 on Monday after a deal agreed with Israeli authorities.
The deal, brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross, saw around a dozen farmers set foot on land they had not been able to access since Israel began restricting access to the border following the 2005 disengagement where it dismantled 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and withdrew IDF forces from the territory.
The move is part of a wider ICRC project that aims to see around 280 farmers return to their land between 100 and 300 meters from Israel’s border fence. Some parts of that territory still have to be cleared of munitions from conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians.
Guislain Defurne, head of the ICRC in Gaza, said the return was the result of lengthy negotiations.
“We helped farmers access to their land,” he said. “Forty-five percent of the agricultural land in Gaza is in the border areas so it makes a lot of sense.”
Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on Gaza for a decade, since the Strip was taken over by the Hamas terror group in a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority. Israel has fought three wars with the terror group since 2008, and insists the blockade is necessary to stop Hamas importing weapons and material used to construct terror tunnels and fortifications.
In addition, Israel has created a buffer zone along the border in which farmers and others are not allowed to operate. Clashes between Gazans and Israeli forces regularly occur in some areas along the border fence.
Farmer Anwar Adbari, 43, said that while he was happy to be back, he had fears the measures could only be temporary.
“We are sowing [the fields] with the help of the ICRC, but next time we don’t know if we will be able to harvest them,” he said.