September 15, 2009
Twenty-year-old Mas’oud Tanboura was injured and Sa’id Al-Hussumi (sixteen years old) was killed when Israeli soldiers along the northern Gazan border opened fire. The two young men were unarmed poor laborers who were working as farmers on another man’s land.
Tanboura told me that they were near the border gathering scrap metal, to fence off farmland property. They did this all the time like many people do. Tanboura added that the Israeli soldiers are used to seeing them.
His cousin, Al-Hussumi, died from chest wounds. His body was taken by Israeli soldiers, dragged across the rough landscape, and returned some hours later via the Erez crossing. Tanboura, from a family of 16 children, was in extreme pain. He could scarcely breathe, let alone speak.
After visiting injured Tanboura, and while driving from Kamal Adwan hospital, the taxi driver started to speak about his own problems. He mentioned that he does not earn enough to buy his wife’s medications:
"The medicine is scarce, and when we do receive it, it is via tunnels in Gaza, and that’s why it’s costly."
This, in addition to the shortage of food supplies, makes life more difficult. He wonders how he will buy her next round of medicine, how he will put food on the table, how they will continue like this.
Another conversation about marriage, not a proposal but a friend told me of how he longs to marry…if only, if only. He works as a volunteer, and he cannot afford the US$12,000 usually spent on weddings. Even if he scrapes enough money together, borrows his mother’s jewellery, and aims for a bottom-line wedding of what he sets at US$9,000, he still cannot afford it.
He is 30 years old, and still unmarried, unusual in Gaza where traditionally men and women marry young.
Juice at a quiet café in a grassy nook; there are not many nooks like this in dry, battered Gaza. Years earlier, trees were abundant in the border areas, but they have been razed by hungry Israeli military bulldozers.
Khalil, speaking of the new school year, said that his friend spent all day looking in different cities and towns in Gaza for school books for his kids but in vain. Although nearly 500,000 students have begun the school year, the Israeli authorities have not allowed the needed school materials into Gaza, deeming these materials non-essential.
Instead, we speak of how these books and materials will likely come through the underground, along with all the other nonessential goods vital to daily life anywhere in the world but banned by an iron-fisted occupational Israeli government.
It seems that, every two or three days, there are more tunnel martyrs, usually impoverished young men in their early twenties (although there are various minors who also work underground), who have turned to the tunnel economy (importing the daily goods denied to Gaza by Israel’s inhumane siege) as every other economy in Gaza has been bombed or shut down.
In a series of tunnel deaths this past week, a number of young men were buried alive after tunnels collapsed or were bombed by the "Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF)." On 25 August,2009, three brothers from the Batiniji family were killed when the IOF bombed the tunnels where they were working. On 28 August, another three members from the Al-Lahhams family were reportedly killed, and a fourth from the same family injured after their tunnel reportedly collapsed.
What drives young men to such inevitably fatal work? It has become inevitably fatal when the IOF routinely bombs the tunnels. The siege-complicit Egyptian authorities are also reported to have sent poisonous gas into the tunnels, and to have denied access to rescuers trying to save buried tunnel workers.
Poverty and desperation are not native to Palestinians, nor specifically to the Palestinians of Gaza. They have been manufactured and created by years of siege, wars on Gaza, denial of the most elemental human rights, and targeting of every feasible form of economy in Gaza.
I visit the UAWC, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and I am excited with their projects. Many of them are directed specifically at women, enabling them to earn money from working near their homes. Projects like raising rabbits, sheep, poultry, or planting vegetables in plots next to their home mean a source of income as well as a source of nutrition, particularly when Israel continually denies the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza of access to nutritional foods, including beef and vegetables, which are brought in via tunnels and they are too expensive for the average siege-impoverished Palestinian.
The UAWC is also involved with rainwater collection, again finding ways around the siege and its effects on the life in Gaza. However, fresh drinking water is a problem in Gaza, with many of the sewage treatment plants nonfunctional or merely straining sewage before it is dumped into the sea. The rain water collection project lines a pit with heavy plastic, which will collect the rains in the coming winter months, this water is used for agriculture and raising animals.
A Palestinian fishing boat sets out early in the morning, as usual, to scour Gaza’s waters for the sparse amount of fish within 3 miles of Gaza’s shore. Would the arbitrarily imposed Israeli fishing limit on Palestinians’ fishing waters be lifted, the fishermen would venture even just 7 miles out (let alone the 20 miles Palestinians are accorded under the Oslo Agreement) and catch a larger supply of fish from deeper waters. Instead, fishermen are confined, for no reason other than Israeli authorities’ will to impose and cripple all aspects of Gaza life, to less than 3 miles.
Today, the trawler is roughly a mile out, near northern Gaza waters, but well within the limits. Abu Adham’s boat, already twice nabbed by the Israeli navy is impounded for 40 days –while fishing persists.
The firing begins rapidly, nearly 20 minutes of intense Israeli navy machine gun fire, rounded off with at least one mortar shell hitting the fishing boat.
The five fishermen on board jump in the water; the flaming boat is towed back to Gaza’s port by other fishermen who have come to the rescue.
The boat is utterly destroyed. Abu Adham and the 18 or so fishermen who work on his boat are jobless again.