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International activists harvest on Gaza border

April 25, 2011 8:02 P.M. (Updated: April 27, 2011 1:55 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Just a kilometer from the 'security fence' separating Israel and Gaza, international solidarity activists and Palestinian volunteers on Monday began a wheat and barley harvest on behalf of landowners who fear Israeli artillery and gunfire in the no-go zone.

Several Palestinian farmers have been killed and injured in the area as they tended their land or collected crops. The Israeli army imposes a no-go zone inside the Gaza Strip border areas, citing security concerns.

Ma'an correspondent Ayman Abu Shanab joined the volunteers putting their lives in danger near Beit Hanoun, at the Strip's northern edge. International solidarity activists insist on remaining in Gaza and continuing their activities despite the dangers to them, especially following the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni in April, he noted.

Beit Hanoun Popular Initiative coordinator Sabir Za'nin told Ma'an, "Since 2008, international sympathizers have been helping farmers and encouraging them to access their fields despite Israeli attempts to stop them at gun point."

"This year, we have launched a campaign to harvest crops, which we have named after slain Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni, as a sign of loyalty to the man who was brutally murdered weeks ago," he added.

Arrigoni, he noted, was a significant participant in solidarity activities in the dangerous areas near Gaza's borders.

An American volunteer told Ma'an, "I came here to bring attention to this area, which many people in the world know little about. I am here to help farmers harvest their wheat and barley, and we do not fear Israeli fire."

Arrigoni's murder, he said, was carried out by a group of criminals who do not represent the Palestinian people.

Access restrictions in the border area harm dwindling agricultural production in the blockaded Gaza Strip, aid organizations say.

In Oxfam's latest report, the international organization said "In practice, Israel restricts access to agricultural land up to 1,000-1,500 metres from the fence, which accounts for more than 30% of Gaza's agricultural land and a significant number of water wells. Most of the Gaza Strip's animal production is also concentrated in this area."
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