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FreeGaza Movement

Human rights group that sailed 5 times into port of Gaza.

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Khouza'a, Gaza Strip, Palestine, 6th November 2008: A number of Palestinian farmers went to their fields today to sow seeds for crops of wheat, lentils and rye to be harvested in the spring. Some internationals, volunteering with ISM Gaza Strip, accompanied the farmers as they worked – the first time in five years for most if not all of these farmers.

The Palestinian farmers brought buckets filled with seeds, and the ISM volunteers walked with them up and down and across the land, sowing the seeds. Once the first plot of land had been sown a farmer with a tractor came and plowed the seeds into the land. Of course it wasn't the way they would plant their crops if they could have the best circumstances. The land was full of weeds and thorns and not really prepared for sowing seeds – however, considering that the farmers are shot at whenever they go to their land, they need to plant their crops in the quickest way possible.

Soon after the farmers started sowing their seeds, two Israeli occupation force jeeps drove to the fence and across from the field that was being worked soldiers got out of the jeeps and lay down on the ground aiming their guns. The Palestinian farmers saw the jeeps and the soldiers and continued to work their land. After these farmers finished sowing seeds another farmer came with his tractor and started plowing the field. It wasn't long before the Israeli occupation force soldiers started shooting. At first their shots were in the air but very quickly the soldiers were shooting directly at the Palestinian farmers and at the ISM volunteers. The farmers quickly left the field. The ISM volunteers remained with their arms raised and yelled to the soldiers to stop shooting – bullets were landing within two to three feet where the volunteers were standing and some heard bullets whistling past their ears.

Another larger jeep type vehicle arrived and at least 10 more Israeli occupation force soldiers got out. Four of them walked towards the border fence and positioned themselves close to it, clearly a sign that they knew there was no danger to them from the Palestinian side. The gunfire continued off and on and the ISM volunteers continued shouting to the soldiers "Stop! Stop shooting!". The volunteers were also making phone calls to the ISM West Bank media office, journalists, their friends and their consulates. They were also receiving phone calls, one volunteer was called by friend who had heard on the radio that Palestinian farmers and ISM volunteers were being shot at in Khouza'a. Finally, after a few hours had passed, the soldiers got into the jeeps and they left. The ISM volunteers remained in the field for at least ten minutes and then took a short break.

During this entire time, since the morning, Israeli farmers had been farming their land, one was driving his tractor right up against the fence – it was crystal clear there was no danger to the Israeli occupation force soldiers or to the farmers. In fact, the Israeli farmers remained working their land the entire day, even while bullets were flying over the heads of the non-violent ISM activists.

During the first break from the onslaught of Israeli gunfire, other Palestinian farmers came to the field and started sowing seeds in another plot of land in the same field. A farmer brought his tractor and started plowing the seeds into the field. By this time Israeli occupation force soldiers returned in a jeep and again they shot at the Palestinian farmers and the accompanying ISM volunteers. The Palestinian farmers left the fields and the ISM volunteers remained. This time when there was calm, more farmers came to the field and started sowing their seeds in their plots of land and a second tractor came and was plowing. At around 1:40pm the Palestinian farmers had finished working this area of land – 15 dunams had been sown and plowed. All the farmers and ISM Gaza Strip volunteers left the fields satisfied of the work accomplished and the volunteers were invited back the following day to work 45 dunams of land in another field with other farmers. It was a good day of solidarity work.