By Mustafa Haboush
GAZA CITY, Palestine
Since 2000, Israel has destroyed roughly 35 percent of the farmland in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian rights group said Tuesday.
In a statement, the Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights said that, since the eruption of the second Palestinian Intifada (uprising) -- also known as the “Al-Aqsa Intifada” -- in late 2000, Israeli occupation forces have established “buffer zones” in the strip’s easternmost and northernmost areas.
According to Al-Mezan, the Israeli army during this period has frequently targeted residential, industrial and agricultural parts of the strip along the security fence.
The affected territories, the rights group says, constitute roughly 35 percent of Gaza’s total agricultural land and 15 percent of the strip’s total area of 365 square kilometers.
Al-Mezan urged the international community, especially signatories to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, to "assume their legal and moral obligations pertaining to Israel’s violations”.
The Israeli army generally prohibits Palestinians in Gaza from entering areas less than 500 meters from the security fence, typically opening fire on anyone that does.
The second Intifada erupted in September of 2000 when controversial Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.
The uprising ended in 2005 when Sharon met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh.