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Violence against shepherds in the Gaza Strip ‘Buffer Zone’
23، Aug 2011

BufferZone8 – 14 August18/8/2011
Ref. No. 268/2011


On 9 August, an elderly Palestinian woman was wounded by gunfire from Israeli forces whilst grazing sheep with her young neighbour about 400 metres from the eastern border of the Gaza Strip. They were attacked despite being

in a completely unrestricted area (see map and note below).

Serious incidents like this are not uncommon along the Gaza Strip border as the Israeli military regularly employs deadly force against Palestinians who live in or nearby the so-called ‘Buffer Zone’ or who rely on the area for their livelihood. (For more information about Israel’s enforcement of the Buffer Zone see Al-Haq’s latest report and new Virtual Field Visit.)

The story

Salma Salman al-Sawarka is 74 years old and a resident of Juhr al-Deek in the eastern Gaza Strip.  Early on 9 August 2011 she left her house, located just over a kilometre from the Gaza Strip border and met her young neighbour, Kifah Nasrallah al-Bahabseh. Kifah is an eighth grade student and during her summer vacations grazes sheep in the eastern part of the village.

After gathering their sheep, Kifah and Salma herded them to a nearby rubbish dump, northeast of the village, about 400 metres from the border with Israel. Salma has been grazing her sheep in this area for several years.

At 9:30 am, Kifah and Salma saw an Israeli tank moving within the border fence accompanied by two military jeeps. Shortly after, they saw a third military jeep approaching the border. The jeep stopped and a small group of soldiers stepped out. When they heard gunshots, Salma dropped to the ground and Kifah ran for cover. Salma looked around and saw several sheep also lying on the ground. Kifah had hidden behind some piles of gravel about 20 metres away. 

After several minutes the soldiers ceased firing. Frightened, Kifah remained hidden behind the gravel. Salma stood up and tried to gather the sheep in order to leave the area. However, as she did this the soldiers resumed shooting again and hit Salma on her right leg. She tried to run but she was overcome with pain and fell to the ground. 

Kifah saw that Salma had been wounded and ran over to the workers at the rubbish dump, a short distance to the west. After about 10 minutes, Kifah and one of the workers returned to Salma, put her into a donkey-drawn cart, and took her back to the village.

One of Salma’s relatives, Farraj-Allah Ibrahim Abu Ghneim, took Salma in a car to the Shuhada’ al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah where she received treatment for wounds to her leg, which had been caused by bullet shrapnel. A few hours later, she returned home and was told that eight of her sheep and two of Kifah’s had been killed during the shooting. 



Note: In January 2009 the Occupying Power’s air force dropped thousands of pamphlets along the border areas of the Gaza Strip warning against anyone approaching the border line from a distance of 300 metres. This area is not physically demarcated in any way. In reality, such a ‘danger’ area (shown on the map in red) extends up to 1500m from the border. Opening fire at civilians living and working in this area, as well as land leveling and property destruction, are common and widespread practices of the Israeli military.