I know the father of one of these young people, Loujain az Zaeem, and so these stories have become more personal than I first imagined they might. OCHA has posted the stories of 50 Palestinians who are living under Israel’s occupation which has lasted 50 years. All of the stories can be found here. How much longer will this occupation last?
On 11 November 2014, an Israeli soldier shot and killed 21-year-old Mohammad Jawabreh, in Al Arrub refugee camp, north of Hebron.
The incident took place during clashes lasting for several hours that erupted following a demonstration held to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
The following are the initial findings of an investigation into this incident conducted by the Office of the High commissioner for Human Rights.
Jawabreh took part in the initial clashes and was struck in the leg by a rubber-coated metal bullet.
He was treated on the spot and left the scene with a friend.
The two continued to Jawabreh’s house and watched the clashes from a window on the second floor of the house.
Shortly after, an Israeli soldier positioned on an adjacent roof ordered the two to leave the window, subsequently firing a teargas canister in their direction.
The two left the window for some time, but returned later with a family member and continued watching the clashes.
A few minutes later, Jawabreh suddenly shouted and collapsed on the floor. He had been shot with live ammunition on the left side of his back.
The two men accompanying him carried him down, put him in a car and drove towards Beit Ummar, where he was transferred to an ambulance.
He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
SA’ED AL ASAKREH
❝We are optimistic that the legal aid will help us regain our land despite settler attacks and intimidation.❞
These were the words of Sa’ed Salameh al Asakreh, now 63 years old, when we visited him in 2014, after the olive harvest season.
Like other farmers from Al ‘Asakira village and the neighbouring communities, he was permitted in 2014 to reach his olive groves, near an Israeli settlement, for the first time in over a decade.
Land belonging to these communities was cultivated in the past with olive trees and seasonal crops such as wheat and barley and constituted the main source of income for the owners’ families.
However, since the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000, these farmers were subjected to systematic violence and intimidation by Israeli settlers that reduced, and then prevented, them from accessing these areas.
Following a legal intervention in 2014 by the Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli Civil Administration declared a number of the affected plots as closed military areas.
This prohibited access by Israeli settlers to the area and required landowners to obtain a special authorization (known as ‘prior coordination’) to enter it.
Subsequently, two periods were allocated to the farmers for coordinated access under the protection of Israeli forces.
AFAF ABU AJWA
In mid-July 2014, during the escalated hostilities with Israel, Afaf was forced – along with her husband and their nine children – to evacuate their home in Ash Shuja’iyeh, Gaza city, which was severely damaged. They took refuge at an UNRWA shelter.
The terrifying ordeal was made worse when the family realized that their son, Imad, was missing.
❝I could not eat or sleep; I realized that we had left our son behind in the demolished house,❞ said Afaf, who was then 42 years old.
❝My husband and I took advantage of the first humanitarian truce and approached the home to look for him. We found him alive under the rubble, scared but unharmed.❞
After the ceasefire, the family had no home to return to, so they moved to an UNRWA Collective Centre.
❝Life here is difficult despite the support and aid we receive…❞ she told us then. ❝We really hope to move out and rebuild our home. It is difficult to locate an apartment for rent for 11 people,❞ said Afaf.
Restrictions on the import of goods, including basic construction materials, imposed by Israel as part of its blockade, have complicated, delayed and, in some cases prevented reconstruction and repair of destroyed or severely damaged homes.
In other cases, where goods are available, families lack the financial resources to purchase them due to the poor economic situation in Gaza caused largely by the years-long blockade.
LOUJAIN AZ ZAEEM
We met Loujain in 2012, in Gaza, when she was a 19-years-old student.
❝I was always strongly inspired by my mother and tried to follow her in everything,❞ she told us.
❝She has a degree in English literature from Bir Zeit University. I grew up hearing great stories about this university and I decided to study there too.❞
However, Bir Zeit Univeristy is located in Ramallah, the West Bank, which ment that she could not get there unless Israel issued a special permit for that purpose.
❝In 2011, I finished my secondary school with very high marks and immediately applied to the Law Faculty at Bir Zeit. I applied for an exit permit through a human rights organization and was very disappointed to learn that my application was rejected by the Israeli security authorities.
❝I cannot see any legitimate reason why Israel would stop me from going to the university I want in my country. Israeli students can choose to study at any university they like in Israel.
❝Although I’ve started to study law at Al Azhar University in Gaza and already completed the first year, I would be happy to start again at Bir Zeit.❞
FAYYADH AS SUMEIRI
Fayyadh was 47 years old when we met him in 2010, and headed a farming household of 10 people in the Qarara area of Khan Yunis, Gaza.
He owns a plot of land of 12 dunums located 150 metres from the fence with Israel, which in the past was planted with almonds, olives and cactus.
In 2003, the area was levelled by the Israeli military and has since remained inaccessible due to warning fire opened from a nearby watch tower at any person attempting to reach the area.
A second plot of six dunums, located 1.5 kilometres west of the fence, was cultivated with olive trees and levelled in late 2008. This plot has subsequently been replanted with wheat, which was consumed by the family, or bartered with two day labourers.
To help offset financial losses, the family rented a 3-dunum plot of land in the area of Suq Mazen, which it planted with zucchini.
However, the Israeli military bulldozed both areas during the 2008/9 escalation. An irrigation network that Fayyadh installed in the rented plot, with the assistance of the European Union, was also totally destroyed.
The loss of income pushed the family into a state of dire poverty and 14,000 NIS in debt.
❝Every day, I pass by shops and see people that I owe money to, and I lower my head,❞ He said. ❝I don’t know what to do because I have no income.
❝Everything we earned was from the land, and every metre we planted was destroyed… Every day I pray that I will be able to return to my land and bring it back to the state it was in.❞
More information about each of these stories is available here.