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Israeli forces open fire at farmers near Gaza border

Feb. 18, 2015 7:45 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 20, 2015 5:49 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Wednesday evening opened fire at Palestinian farmers near the border east of the town of al-Maghazi in the central Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers stationed at the border opened fire at the farmers as they were standing in their farmland, forcing them to flee the area.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment.

Witnesses told Ma'an that similar shooting incidents have recently been occurring on an almost daily basis along the Gaza border.

Israeli forces have repeatedly opened fire on Palestinian civilians near the border in the five months since the signing of a ceasefire agreement that ended a more than 50-day assault by Israel on Gaza that left around 2,200 dead and 11,000 injured.

The attacks come despite Israeli promises at the end of the ceasefire that restrictions on Palestinian access to the border region would be lessened.

The "security buffer zone" before the Israeli assault extended between 500 meters and 1,500 meters into the Strip, effectively turning local farms into no-go zones.

According to UNOCHA, 17 percent of Gaza's total land area and 35 percent of its agricultural land were within the buffer zone as of 2010, directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of more than 100,000 Gazans.

During the war, the buffer zone covered nearly half of the entire Gaza Strip, but immediately following the cessation of hostilities was reduced to former levels, with promises that it would be pulled back further.

The border restrictions are part of Israel's broader siege on the Gaza Strip in place for the last eight years, which largely prohibits both imports and exports and has led to a severe collapse in the tiny coastal enclave's economy.

The blockade has led to frequent humanitarian crises for Gazans, and the UN and various human rights groups have repeatedly called on Israel to lift it.
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