On Wednesday 5 October 2011, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and the Fursan Al Ghad (“Knights of Tomorrow”) Youth Association opened a workshop under the title “International Humanitarian Law and the Protection of Civilians.
” The workshop targeted farmers living in the “access-restricted area” on the Gazan border (also called the “buffer zone”), who face substantial risks and hardships in reaching and caring for their lands.
The workshop was held on Fursan Al Ghad’s premises in Beit Hanoun, North Gaza district.
Hussein Hammad, Al Mezan’s fieldworker in North Gaza district, opened the workshop by welcoming the participating farmers and thanking Fursan Al Ghad for their cooperation in holding the event.
Hammad discussed the importance of understanding the suffering of farmers in the restricted areas, and of monitoring and reporting on the grave violations to which they are subjected.
He also pointed out the importance of exposing Israel’s frequent violations of international law in this area.
In addition, he invited the participants to make good use of the content of the workshop and to learn about the standards of international humanitarian law—especially the rules which outlaw the systematic, daily violations against farmers—in order to lay out and expose these violations, which contravene the provisions of the fourth Geneva Convention.
Saber Za’anin, Executive Director of the Fursan Al Ghad Youth Association, thanked the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights for helping to organize the workshop and the farmers for their attendance and participation.
He emphasized that farmers must speak out and expose human rights violations, and urged the attendees to participate in demonstrations against the “buffer zone” in order to send a message to the international community.
Za’anin expressed his hope that Al Mezan and other concerned groups would organize similar activities and meetings in the future.
Zaher As-Sakka, a judge and expert in IHL, then presented his lecture on the violations committed against farmers on lands located near the border since the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000.
He discussed the treaties and attached protocols defining international humanitarian law; the legal status of the Gaza Strip, which is considered an occupied territory; the history of the security buffer zone’s establishment; the “A” and “B” areas of the occupied Palestinian territories as defined under the Oslo agreements; the application of international humanitarian law to these areas; the daily offenses committed against farmers along the border; the IOF’s treatment of all Palestinians as combatants, without distinction between civilians and fighters who take up arms; and the targeting of Palestinians and their property for killing and destruction.
In their own important and effective contributions, the participating farmers described their daily suffering, including its origins, progression, and continuation.
They reviewed the Israeli encroachment on Palestinian lands near the border beginning several years ago; the Israeli attacks on fields and farmers near the separation fence; and the razing and destruction of their fields.
They described how Israel prevents them from reaching their fields and enforces the “buffer zone” with live fire.
They added that these attacks and violations have taken place amidst silence from the international community and international organizations.
Hammad wrapped up the workshop by thanking the farmers and inviting them to attend other such meetings, mentioning the titles of several future workshops on topics relevant to the lives of victims of human rights violations.
This workshop is part of a project titled “Promotion of IHL and ESCR [economic, social and cultural rights] through Education” which is being implemented by Al Mezan with support from Diakonia.
The project aims to raise awareness of international humanitarian law among the Gazan community in general, and to enable lawyers in particular to make use of this body of law in their legal and judicial work.