Diakonia - People change the world

Targeting livelihoods

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


Bilal El Hassoumi was 17 years old when he got shot in the leg while collecting scrap and rubble, work on which his family depended, in the Beit Lahya neighbourhood near the northern part of the “buffer zone” with Israel. Bilal is the second son of the family to be targeted close to the “buffer zone”.

Part of a family of 15 with an unemployed father, Bilal and his brothers - like many other teenagers of the northern Gaza Strip - support their family by venturing daily into the “buffer zone” to collect gravel and rubble, remnants of the buildings destroyed during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in December 2008 - January 2009. They then sell whatever they collect. Due to the blockade enforced by Israel on the Gaza Strip since 2007, very little construction material enters the Strip, making gravel collecting a worthwhile but dangerous activity.

“My brother Nidal had already been shot four times by the Israeli forces before I got injured myself,” the boy recalls. “After he got shot last time in August, Nidal has not been able to work again, leaving Mohamed, my other brother, and I, as the only ones sustaining our family.” On 4 December 2010, Bilal went to collect rubble on the site of the former Israeli settlement of Eli Sinai, about 600 meters from the northern perimeter fence, joining dozens of other collectors. “I got hit by a bullet and fell; there was blood pouring out from my left leg. Two men came and staunched my leg with a piece of fabric and carried me to the hospital where I had two surgeries. The bullet smashed the flesh and broke my leg.”