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HEBRON, 10 August 2008 (IRIN) - The toughest part of the West Bank just got a bit sweeter, with an influx of beehives, helping farmers cope with the decline in their economic situation.

Stuck between two Israeli settlements, the Palestinian residents of Wadi al-Ghrous in Hebron are surrounded by military bases and fences, their movements are restricted, and over the past 25 years they have been affected by Israeli land expropriations.
Sami Gheit, a 62-year-old farmer, said he lost 50 dunams (five hectares) of his land to a "buffer zone" created by the Israeli military between his home and the nearby settlement of Qiryat Arba. However, the fence surrounds the Palestinians and not the settlements, thereby annexing, de-facto, Gheit's land, the farmer said.

"I had grapes, plums, apricots, almonds on the other side of the fence," he told IRIN. "They took it away about five years ago. They said it was for security."

He said he was promised adequate access to the land, but this was not granted.


ICRC handouts

Not being able to sell his fruits meant his financial condition deteriorated and Gheit now depends on handouts from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). 

The ICRC gave him five beehives to help him get back on his feet.

"I got the beehives about five months ago and this is the first batch," he said holding up a jar of honey. "I spend my time with the bees. I have no land but I have something," he said optimistically.

The ICRC said it gave five beehives each to 74 West Bank families. 


No movement restrictions for bees

For Samir Jaber, another Palestinian farmer in the enclave, the proximity to the settlement has a small irony: because the settlers have abundant access to water they are able to grow many flowers which his bees use for gathering nectar.

"There are lots of rosemary bushes in the settlements and this is good for the honey," Jaber said. "In the winter, I want to plant my own rosemary." 


Jaber complains bitterly about the Palestinians' water crisis.

"We have [had] lots of water problems in the last three years. It wiped us out," he said, adding that because of the restrictions on movement it was hard to tanker in water. Refuse trucks and ambulances cannot access this area either.

Jaber said it takes him over an hour to reach his cousin's house, about 200 metres away and visible from his window, because of an Israeli military base planted in the middle of what was the family's land.


But this summer, water was the main issue.