GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Mohammed Abu Shteiwi was woken up on the morning of Jan. 3 by the roar of the bulldozers of the Hamas police force near the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The dredging operations are one of the largest that included demolitions and bulldozing of Palestinian homes and farms on an area of 55 dunums (13.6 acres) east of Rafah.
The Abu Shteiwi family is one of 23 families that have lived in and cultivated this area of land for decades. They were surprised by these bulldozers coming to put an end to their presence in the area, claiming the lands are government-owned. On Dec. 15, the Palestinian Land Authority affiliated with Hamas in the Gaza Strip issued a decision to expropriate these lands with the aim to expand the Rafah land crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt for commercial purposes.