Israel continues shelling of Gaza: Fourth consecutive day

Published May 8th, 2016 - 11:06 GMT
A Palestinian rides a cart past a mural on March 30, 2016, in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP/Said Khatib)
A Palestinian rides a cart past a mural on March 30, 2016, in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Israeli forces on Sunday morning opened fire on Palestinians farmers in southern Gaza Strip, local sources said.

Locals told Ma'an Israeli forces deployed east of Khan Yunis opened fire on farmers, preventing them from reaching their lands. No Injuries were reported.

An Israeli army spokesperson said they could not confirm the incident.

The incident comes after Israeli forces targeted the southern region of the small Palestinian territory with airstrikes for four consecutive days beginning Wednesday evening. Several were injured and a Palestinian woman was killed by Israeli shelling.

Israel said airstrikes were launched in response to Palestinian resistance groups targeting its troops with mortar rounds in an attempt to thwart Israeli military excavation activities in search of Hamas-made tunnels. However, Israel's regular incursions inside Gaza's border areas were perceived by many as the instigator of the hostilities.

The exchange was seen as an unusual escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip since a 2014 ceasefire was brokered after Israel's devastating 50-day assault on the besieged coastal enclave that left some 2,200 dead and 11,000 injured.

Hamas, Gaza's de facto ruler, had widely observed the ceasefire; Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yalon in March said Hamas "hasn't fired a bullet" since the war, and following Thursday's hostilities, Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a senior Israeli army officer as saying that Hamas had even been instrumental in preventing extremist attacks and rocket fire directed at Israel.

However in the almost two years since the ceasefire was declared, regular violations have been committed on the Israeli side.

Israeli bulldozers frequently enter Gaza territory, carrying out land-leveling and excavation operations while accompanied by military vehicles, with four such incursions recorded by the UN between April 26 and May 2.

On a near daily basis, the Israeli army fires "warning shots" on Palestinian fisherman, farmers, and shepherds entering the Israeli-enforced "buffer zone," implemented after Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip a decade ago.

Due to the high frequency of the attacks, live fire often goes unreported.

While Israel typically cites security concerns when targeting Palestinian agricultural areas, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights has reported in the past that fishermen are often targeted when they pose no threat.

Approximately 35 percent of Palestinian agricultural land in Gaza is inaccessible without high personal risk, according to the center.
In 2015, Israeli naval forces opened fire on Palestinian fishermen at least 139 times, killing three, wounding dozens, and damaging at least 16 fishing boats, according to the UN Agency for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Israeli forces also regularly open fire on Palestinian protesters during Friday demonstrations held along Gaza's border, with injuries sustained by live fire and rubber-coated steel bullets reported nearly every week. At least 25 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces in Gaza clashes since the beginning of October, according to UN documentation.


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