North Gaza Villagers Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Village between two settlements has been fenced off for four years.

The noise of semi-trailers and army vehicles could be heard all night, Issa al-Ghul reported Tuesday by phone from Siyafa, a village in the northern Gaza Strip that has the misfortune of being located between the two settlements of Dugit and Elei Sinai. For the past four years, this farming village has been closed off by barbed wire, a steel fence and an Israel Defense Forces fortified position. "We saw them taking down the antennae. Today they took down the antenna of the navy position and the antennae of Dugit and Elei Sinai," al-Ghul said.

For the past four years, the gate to Siyafa has been opened by the IDF two or three times a day. Entry is permitted only to residents, not to relatives or friends. Cars are not allowed in and out; a donkey and cart need a special pass. Some of Siyafa's families moved to Gaza City or Beit Lahiya so their children would not miss school or be unable to come home because of a closed gate or a soldier who was a minute late. Of 100 families, 45 are left.

On Monday, the IDF would not let Haaretz in to talk to the al-Ghul family in person. None of the people waiting on both sides of the gate was let in either. It was guarded by a single soldier in a fortified position on a mound. The gate opened at 6:30 P.M. to allow a generator in. The people were then informed that beginning midnight, their village was under curfew until further notice.

Al-Ghul said he had heard Avi Farkhan of Elei Sinai weeping on the radio. "I understand. It's hard to leave the paradise they created here, at our expense."

Soldiers from the District Liaison Office, among them a number of Druze, came to say good-bye. "They promised they would make things easier for us during the curfew," al-Ghul said. It sounded as if he was smiling. How can things be made easier for someone who has to remain in their home for an indefinite amount of time? But the knowledge that it will soon be over lightens the sense of imprisonment. Al-Ghul's older brother is already preparing a boat and a net. It has been five years since they've been allowed on the beach, although they only live 300 meters away.

The Palestinian Office of Civil Affairs, headed by Mohammed Dahlan, has announced officially that passage through Abu Huli (the Gush Katif junction) connecting the northern and southern Gaza Strip will be allowed only after 7 P.M., after weeks of confusion during which, as usual, people did not know who to blame, the Israelis or the Palestinians.

But then the Palestinian liaison officer announced it would be closed all day until 1 A.M., and would remain open until 8 A.M. This will be the arrangement until further notice, that is, until the forced evacuation is complete. On Saturday, the passage will be open - the forced evacuation will be suspended on that day, and Palestinians will be able to go from north to south and vice-versa.

On Tuesday the IDF took over five Palestinian houses in the Strip and turned them into military outposts, a reminder of the daily fare of families during the past five years.