30.12.10 - 11:32 Gaza City – Muhammad al-Astal – Al-Quds - Palestinian fishermen face great difficulties at work on the Mediterranean Sea: even after continual naval assaults by Israeli troops that have lead to several recent deaths and injuries and major damage to their boats and fishing equipment, there is still the fact that they are forbidden from fishing in deep water and go home without enough to feed their families.
Sami Bakr, 31, says that despite the great effort he exerted to avoid Israeli gunfire in his small boat, he failed: his cousin Muhammad died of injuries sustained from an Israeli raid. Most of his fishing equipment s destroyed as well.
“The lives of fishermen are bitter,” said Bakr. “Many face death on the sea, but most face poverty in the Strip. We now have so little that we can barely provide for our families.”
According to the al-Mizan Center for Human Rights, Israeli assaults will continue against Gaza fishermen if the available fishing region is kept within three nautical miles of the shore—Israeli troops have been known to fire at any boats approaching beyond the limit, breaking windows and putting holes in the boat hulls, sometimes even seizing the boats outright.
The three-mile limit is not enough to accommodate Gaza’s more than 3700 fishermen and serves only to deepen their poverty and that of their families. Fishermen are Gaza’s poorest sector—about 90% fall below the poverty line.
On Tuesday, Israeli naval troops arrested six Gaza fishermen near the beach and took them, as well as their boats, to an unknown location. In the past year and a half, 42 fishermen have been arrested and 17 boats seized, and 83 boats damaged in various degree.
Nizar Ayash, a local captain, calls for others to stand by the fishermen in their plight and help them continue their lives, warning that marginalization will lead fishermen to look for work elsewhere.
With this in mind, Agriculture Minister in Gaza Muhammad al-Agha considers the Israeli policy of attacking fishermen “an arrogant and flimsy justification to crack down on fishermen and deepen their suffering.”