Thursday, September 11, 2008

Testimony: Israeli naval vessel rams into boat of Palestinian fisherman and sails over it, opposite Gaza shoreline, Sept. '08

Report B'Tselem

Murad al-Hasi, fisherman

Murad al-Hasi

I live with my wife and our seven children in the a-R imal neighborhood of Gaza City. Since 1988, I ’ve worked as a fisherman. In 1996, my grandfather, my father, and my uncle bought a fishing boat that is 20 meters long, 5 meters wide, and 2.5 meters high. We ’ve been using it to catch fish ever since.

Two days ago [Wednesday, 19 September], at around 10:00 A.M., I went out in the boat. With me were my brother Fares, 30, some of our cousins from the al-Hasi family – Sameh, 30, Shadi, 25, Khaled, 38, and Muhammad, 17 – and ‘Adnan a-Siban, 40. We sailed south from Gaza to a place about six nautical miles [1 nautical mile = 1,852 meters] off the coast of Deir el-Balah. We have a GPS device on the boat to measure our distance from the coast. We spread out the nets in the sea and began to sail slowly, dragging them . That is how we fish . We sailed until we reached Gaza Wharf. We stopped, pulled up the nets, and removed the fish. Then we put the nets back into the sea and drifted north, dragging the nets, until we were opposite the Jabalya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip. Then we turned around and headed south, back to where we were opposite Gaza Wharf. We stopped and pulled up the nets.

Al-Hasi's boat after the Israeli navy boat damaged it. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 11.9.08
Al-Hasi's boat after the Israeli navy boat damaged it. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 11.9.08

Around 5:30 P.M. [6:30 Israeli time], I saw an Israeli navy boat more than eight nautical miles from the coast . It began to move in our direction. There were three other fishing boats in the water, about 500 meters from us. The Israeli boat moved toward them and circled them in a way that made waves and shook the boats.

After the Israeli boat went around them a few times, it suddenly picked up speed and came toward us with its front part raised out of the water. It hit our boat with great force. The collision damaged the middle section of our boat, which is made of wood and fiberglass. It also damaged the motor that pulls the nets out of the sea.

The navy boat landed on the other side of our boat and continued to move very fast. It was about 20 meters long, six meters wide, and three meters high . Then two other fishermen, Omar and Fuad al-Habil, came with their boats and towed us to shore.

I thank Allah that we were far from the part of the boat that was hit. I was in the command room and the others were sitting behind the room. Nobody was physically injured, but the intensity of the collision knocked Shadi into the water. The others suffered from shock.
I think that the navy soldier who did that was crazy. A sane person wouldn’t do that. I don’t know how he could do that.

Now that our boat is damaged, we’re unemployed and can’t support our families. It will cost about 20,000 dollars to repair the boat. Also, because of the siege, the parts needed for the repair are not available in Gaza.

I don’t understand why this happened to us. We’re simply fishermen who want to support our families in dignity.

Muhammad Murad Rajab al-Hasi, 36, married with seven children, is a fisherman and a resident of Gaza City. His testimony was given to Muhammad Sabah on 11 September 2008 at the fishermen's wharf in Gaza.