[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Gaza diary: Hakeem Abu Samra
Hakeem Abu Samra, a 47-year-old Palestinian Authority employee living in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, begins a diary for the BBC News website about his view of Israeli withdrawal from the strip.

The most important thing for us regarding the pullout is that we will get rid of the occupation. We can finally move freely inside the Gaza Strip.

Hakeem Abu Samra (picture courtesy Hakeem Abu Samra)
Palestinian government employee
Married with four children
Lives in Beit Lahiya

Before, the settlements blocked the roads so people couldn't get to each other's homes. It can take hours for you to get anywhere.

There are difficulties getting back to your home, sometimes you are stranded for a few days. It can take its toll on human relationships.

Now, there's a chance for our land to be free. The land the settlements occupy belongs to the Palestinian people. It will solve problems for us - such as giving people housing, especially the refugees living in squalor in the camps.

Maybe donors will invest money in building houses for these people; we can use this land for agriculture, as well as helping people to work and bringing some money in for the Palestinian Authority.

My father and cousin have owned about 60 dunums of land [about 15 acres] close to the border between Gaza and Israel since 1936, when the whole area was still under British Mandate.

We have not been on that land since 1970, when we got a military order forbidding us from entering the area.

This land was sliced into three by streets connecting the four settlements built there, including Dugit, the one nearest to us.

It was very upsetting for our family - especially as our grandfather had died on that land, shot by Israeli soldiers on patrol in 1956, two years before I was born.

I cannot describe what it is like to see your land, to be near to it, but to be forbidden from entering it. You cannot put it into words.

Seeing settlers on our land, planting their crops, making money, it is like someone has stolen something from you.

These people hurt me and my family, they built their house on my family's land and kept it for nearly 40 years.

My father and cousin have since died, but my brothers and my cousin's brothers are looking forward to seeing the settlers leave and getting the land back.

Once we get the land back, we will look for compensation from the International Court of Justice.

But most importantly, once we get rid of the occupation in Gaza we hope to live just like human beings, as in any other country.

We want to be safe and free, to be left alone to take care of ourselves.

We can live as good neighbours, so Israel should stop bothering our lives.

People here are waiting to hear the news that the settlers have left. They want to celebrate.

From what I hear, there are only a few small families remaining in the settlements. Some of my friends said the settlers in and around Dugit had sold all their furniture to local Palestinians. Then they moved at night as they were afraid of attacks.

I think they didn't want us to watch them leave.

At the moment, the Israelis are still keeping the tanks patrolling, surrounding the settlements day and night.

We cannot get any closer than one kilometre to the settlements, but we have been waiting 40 years, we can wait another few weeks.

The PA says that when the settlements are empty they will close them for three days to check for mines and then the security forces will open them for organised tours, even if they have been bulldozed.

Afterwards, the PA has several plans for these areas, the industry ministry will look for business opportunities and the housing ministry will help build homes.

It will be a historic moment. It is, I suppose, a kind of happiness. At the moment we live in a prison, but soon we will be free.

Israel and the Palestinians



Palestinian women sit on a roof top of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 20 November 2006. Human shields
Palestinians adopt a new tactic to deter Israeli attacks, but this is a high-risk strategy




The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific