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FARMING IN GAZA

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    Sari Zaanin helps after school on his father's farm in Beit Hanoun, loading a tractor with produce for the local market. Farmers used to export their products abroad but due to the military blockade, are now forced to sell locally at lower prices.
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    Khalil Zaanin works on his farm in Beit Hanoun, Palestine. His land has been destroyed multiple times by the Israeli army.
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    Farmers lay an irrigation system in Beit Lahia, near the Erez Checkpoint, in Palestine's northern Gaza Strip, October 2013.
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    Farm hands harvest crops and load them onto a car in Khan Younis, approximately 350 meters from Palestine's border with Israel.
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    Geese wander on Hamad Medhat's farm in Beit Hanoun. Medhat and his wife work in the fields during the day. After school, their children and grandchildren come home to play on the farmland, which has been bulldozed several times by the Israeli army.
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    Medhat Hamad's grandson lays on the ground after a family reunion.
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    A bedroom at Abu Tareq Wahadin's farm in Beit Hanoun, located in the northern Gaza Strip.
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    A farmer's wife bakes bread in the Msabbah area of Rafah, in Palestine's southern Gaza Strip.
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    Pigeons are seen on a farm in Rafah, Palestine.
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    Tomatoes are loaded into the back of a pickup truck to be brought to market in Rafah.
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    Land belonging to farmer Mohammed Abu Daqqa is seen in Khan Younis, the so called Buffer Zone, about 300 meters from the border with Israel. Given this proximity and the risk of Isreali army sniper fire, Abu Daqqa is unable to hire workers to help farm his land.
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    Abu Tareq Wahadans's son distributes fertilizer on their farm. Due to Palestine's fuel crisis, many farmers must use horse-drawn carts to move around their farms and perform daily agricultural work.
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    Members of Medhat Hamad's family peel and eat oranges at a family reunion in Beit Hanoun, on the farm that was bulldozed by the Israeli army.
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    Bullet holes from a 2008 Israeli air strike pepper the home of the Qudaih family in Khan Younis. The house is located 750 meters from the border, and the Israeli Army occupied the house during the war, also known as Operation Cast Lead.
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    Mohammed Abu Daqqa's daughter plays on a rooftop playground in Khan Younis, where Israeli army sniper towers and tanks surround the family's home. In 2012, the house was occupied and the father was detained for several days while his wife and children were forced to stay in their home under surveillance.
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    A tree is seen on a farm in Rafah, Palestine, November 2013.
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    Medhat Hamad opens the gate to his farmland during a family reunion.
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    Cabbage is harvested in Rafah. In June 2006, an Israeli soldier was kidnapped in the area. Today, residents believe Rafah to be among the most difficult and dangerous places to cultivate crops in Gaza.
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    Palestinian children play near a greenhouse in Rafah's Msabbah area.
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    A living room at the Abu Daqqa family home in the southern Gaza strip, where mother and children were held under surveillance while their father was detained by Israeli soldiers.
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    The Hamad family gathers during a reunion in Beit Hanoun, November 2013.
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    Jihan Abu Daqqa reviews her children's homework before going to school. Though she studied law, Abu Daqqa stays at home to assist her husband maintain the family's farm, which is deemed to dangerous for him to be able to hire additional help.
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    The Star of David is scrawled on a bedroom wall in the Qudaih family home in Khan Younis, in Palestine's southern Gaza Strip. The drawing was made by Israeli soldiers who occupied the house during the war in 2008, when the family was evacuated and their roof was used, and later destroyed, for military purposes by the Israeli army.
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    Bullet holes from an Israeli air strike are seen in the children's bedroom of the Qudaih's family home in Khan Younis.
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    Ghanma Jbara prepares tea, surrounded by the ruins of what used to be her home in Rafah. The day after an Israeli soldier was kidnapped here, Jbara watched as her house was bulldozed and then surrounded by tanks and solders for more than two weeks. She refuses to leave, living in a shelter adjacent to her land.
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    A donkey feeds from a bucket in east Rafah.
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    The remains of a rocket launched by an Israeli air strike remains on the ground near the Qudaih family home. Eyad, the father, remembers his children running to him just before the projectile hit their bedroom. "If they stayed in the room, they would have been all dead." At the time, his wife was in the six month of her pregnancy, and suffered a miscarriage the night of the bombing.
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    The youngest member of the Al Roomi family sleeps in her mothers' lap in the back of a truck as the father harvests cabbage.
Farming in Gaza

In Gaza, where the Israeli border is within sight, Palestinian farmers try to make a living cultivating crops like strawberries, oranges, grapefruits, and olives. Their task became even more difficult after a military blockade in 2007 made it impossible to export their products, forcing them to sell only in their occupied, war-torn land. Up to 80 percent of gricultural yields from Gaza and the West Bank used to be sold abroad, but a ban on exports has devastated the Gazan economy to its lowest point. At the same time, essential supplies including fuel and electricity are strictly regulated by Israel.

The economic blockade is merely one facet of a farmer’s war-torn life. The places where farmers are most likely to be settled—small communities like Rafah, Khan Younis and Beit Hanoun—are now known as front lines, and the most likely places where missiles are to be fired, houses destroyed and lives taken. It is in these struggling farming towns where the Israeli army bulldozes land and sniper fire is a familiar occurrence for families. More than 35 percent of Gaza’s agricultural land is in so-called Buffer Zones. Officially, these restricted-access areas extend 300 meters into the Gaza Strip. In reality, they can extend up to 1,500 meters from the border fence, and are enforced with lethal means. In addition to declining agricultural production in the Gaza Strip, existing water shortages are exacerbated by heavy pollution, leaving just 10 percent of the water supply potable. Due to limitations on land cultivation, farmers of the Gaza Strip lose about $50 million in potential profit annually. Though select products are allowed to be exported today, the export rate is still ten times lower than it was before the blockade took effect. In 2012, just 9 million stems of carnations were exported from Gaza during the flower season; before the blockade, closer to 50 million Gaza flowers circulated around the world.

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