What Is the “Buffer Zone”?
The Buffer Zone is a military no-go zone imposed by Israel, starting at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip and extending a substantial distance into Gazan territory. “Buffer zone,” or sometimes “access-restricted areas,” are terms generally used by Israel to describe the band of Gazan territory to which Palestinian access is effectively denied. (The term “Buffer Zone” is used throughout this factsheet for simplicity’s sake.) Israel treats this border area, which contains much of Gaza’s most valuable arable land, as a free-fire zone, meaning any Gazan resident entering the zone is at risk of death or injury. It also regularly sends troops, including armoured columns, into the border areas to keep the lands razed of any built-up structures or agricultural activity. Despite the mortal threat associated with entering the Buffer Zone, its actual width and area are unclear. In May 2009, Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) aircraft dropped leaflets on Gaza warning residents not to move within 300 metres of the border fence, or risk being shot at. In reality, however, Palestinians have been shot up to two kilometres from the border fence, and houses and buildings have been demolished at a distance greater than 300 metres from the border.
The Creation of the Buffer Zone
As part of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement (1994) and Oslo II (1995), Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation agreed to a delimiting line within the Gaza Strip. The agreements stipulate that “[t]here will be a security perimeter along the Delimiting Line inside the Gaza Strip.” The security perimeter was to be patrolled by the Palestinian police. Structures existing with 100 meters of the border were not to be demolished. Certain limitations on new building in the area were provided for, but building continued to be allowed.
After the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, Israel enforced a 150-metre no-go zone on the eastern side of the Gaza Strip, effectively marking the beginning of the Israeli-imposed Buffer Zone. The systematic demolition of homes and other structures (including all agricultural infrastructure) to clear areas near the border fence also began at the start of the Second Intifada in a way that caused serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.