Thanks to the ceasefire, Jaber Abu Musabeh, a Palestinian farmer in Gaza was able to harvest his 0.3-hectare of olive trees after many weeks of delay due to the bloody Hamas-Israel conflict.
Local harvest season usually starts in mid-October and lasts for some 45 days, but the war suspended everything. Abu Musabeh said he did not venture to go to his farms anymore for fear of being attacked by the Israeli fighters nearby.
The weeks-long conflict, combined with climate change, led to a very poor harvest this year, said Abu Musabeh, adding his yields were only a quarter of what it was last year.
During the harvest season, men would climb up olive trees that are usually more than 100 years old, and hand-pick the fruits, while women and children would pick the lower parts of the trees.
Saed Mahdi, a Palestinian who lost his supermarket, the main source of his family’s income, to an Israeli attack, also took advantage of the prevailing calm to harvest olives in his farmland in the border area east of the refugee camp.
“Despite the danger here, I came to harvest my trees to sell the crops in the local markets to make some money that would help me keep my family afloat amid the current dire situation,” the 55-year-old father of eight told Xinhua.
“I cannot wait for the food aid provided by the UN organizations to feed my family,” he said.
However, he lamented, only a fraction of the fruits were still on the trees and many other ripe ones had already fallen.
Olive is a major cash crop in Gaza. Three main varieties (Al-Sari, Al-Shamali, Barnea) are grown here, with large harvests entering the mill and extracted for oil.
Mohammed Abu Zidan, the owner of a local olive oil press mill told Xinhua that there is an increase in demand after the temporary four-day truce took effect in Gaza on Nov. 24.
The press mill also gathered people who came here not for the products but the waste. Rakan al-Halabi, a father of five, often sat for hours outside the mill to bring home some olive waste to burn for heating amid the constant power cuts.
“I do not have money to buy enough blankets for my kids nor a house that would keep them in a warm place,” said al-Halabi who took refuge in a shelter with his family in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis.
Since Oct. 7, Hamas, the Islamist group ruling the coastal enclave, has been involved in a bloody conflict with Israel after launching its unprecedented attack at the Israeli cities, killing more than 1,200 people and seizing more than 240 others as hostages.
In response, Israel declared a state of war against Gaza, imposing a tightened blockade on the territory, cutting off the electricity and fuel supply.
Israeli fighter jets, artillery, and naval boats meanwhile carried out continuous attacks on Gaza, destroying more than 50 percent of residential houses in the Strip, according to Palestinian official statistics.