Diakonia - People change the world

A grove as a graveyard

A case study from the IHL Resource Centre report "Within Range", The legality of the land, Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip". January 2011

12/16/2014

This is the last picture of Shaban Qarmout, taken a few minutes before he was fatally shot from one of the Israeli gun towers situated on the perimeter fence. Qarmout died while working on his land, about 600 meters from the fence along the cease fire line in Beit Hanoun.

Shaban Shaker Qarmout, a 67-year-old farmer from Beit Hanoun was shot dead by the Israeli forces on 10 January 2011 while working on his land close to the northern part of the “buffer zone”.

That Monday, minutes before he was killed, Shaban was being interviewed by the staff of the Italian non- governmental organisation GVC (Gruppo di Volontariato Civile), who were documenting the hardships of Palestinian farmers living and working in, or close to, the “buffer zone”, under the constant threat of confiscation of land and Israeli gunfire.

A father of five and grandfather of many, Shaban had been farming this area for as long as he could recall. He owned two dunums of land in Beit Hanoun, located 220 meters from the perimeter fence with Israel. “I bought this land to build a house for my family and farm. My fields were planted with orange, lemon, mandarin and almond trees,” he told his interviewers before his death. “I used to collect

two full bags of almonds every year. At that time, we were living well, I was working hard in the orange grove but I would earn a fair living.” This all changed after the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000. “One night during Ramadan, the Israeli army entered the neighborhood. They came exactly at the time when the fruits were ready to be picked and they uprooted the entire grove and leveled the land around with eight bulldozers. I felt as if someone had ripped out my heart. This was the most difficult thing I had to live through”.

Shaban’s testimony details the pressure he and his peers faced when working in a site of regular Israeli incursions and gunfire. “Last year, I planted 47 dunums of wheat, but it became very dangerous to access that land, as the Israeli army open fire at us regularly. Then again, the army burned all the crops. I decided to plant there this year, but when doing so, the army shot at us again, so we decided to flee the zone.”

That very day, while not yet aware of his fate, Shaban said that he still visits his crops every day. “What else can I do? I am going to buy more wheat and try to plant again. I am taking a risk, I know, but how many times does a man die?”

Shaban Qarmout was killed close to his water well, located on the map at B-4. In the north, marked in red, is the Armistice line.

 © Courtesy of GVC