Friday, April 10, 2015

Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian fisherman off Gaza coast

Published Wednesday 08/04/2015 (updated) 10/04/2015 17:54
Two Palestinian fishermen paddle their small boat off the beach of Gaza
City while casting their nets on Aug. 10, 2014. (AFP/File)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Wednesday shot and injured a Palestinian man with a rubber-coated steel bullet as he was fishing off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip.

Local sources said that fisherman Khalid Zayid was shot while he was at sea off the coast of the town of Beit Lahiya.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

Israeli authorities maintained a limit of three miles on all activities of fishermen in the Gaza Strip until August, when Hamas negotiated a six-mile limit as part of the ceasefire that concluded Israel's two-month summer assault that left 2,200 dead.

But Israeli authorities have frequently shot at Palestinian fishermen inside the limit, and three have been killed since then.

Twenty-nine attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinian fisherman have have been reported since Sept. 1 by Gaza-based watchdog al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, however due to the normalcy of such incidents, attacks often go unreported.

The center also said that 42 fisherman had been detained and 12 fishing boats confiscated in the same period.

There are approximately 4,000 fishermen in Gaza.

According to a 2011 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross 90 percent are poor, an increase of 40 percent from 2008 and a direct result of Israeli limits on the fishing industry.

The Gaza Strip has been under a blockade imposed by the State of Israel since 2006 which has devastated the economy through near-complete limits on imports and exports.

The blockade has massively increased Palestinian dependance on international food aid, and the fishing industry is one of the few ways Gazans can produce their own food sources.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

In photos: Gaza fishermen “in God’s hands”

31 March 2015
Tawfiq Abu Reyala’s wife and four children have no income after the fisherman was shot dead by Israeli naval forces.
(Ezz Zanoun)
Hundreds of mourners gathered outside of al-Shifa hospital to protest the killing of Tawfiq Abu Reyaleh, a 34-year-old fisherman shot by the Israeli navy just hours before.
Along with his shipmates on the overnight shift, the late father of five was struck by a bullet when Israeli forces opened fire on their boat on 7 March, as they sailed within the six-nautical mile limit that Israel has imposed on Gaza’s sea vessels, according to the fishermen.
Abu Reyaleh was survived by his wife and four children, who live in northern Gaza.

Emad Abu Reyala worked with his cousin Tawfiq every day on their family’s boat before the fisherman was fatally shot earlier this month.
(Ezz Zanoun)
“We just want to be like fishermen everywhere,” his mourning cousin, Emad al-Sayeed Abu Reyala, told The Electronic Intifada. “We are not asking for so much; just a basic right. Our rights are not protected — not by the world, not by the Arab countries. Our lives are in God’s hands.”
“My cousin wasn’t the first fisherman to be shot by the Israelis and he won’t be the last. There isn’t a fisherman in Gaza who hasn’t been shot at,” Emad said, adding that his son was injured when Israeli naval forces shot him in December.
“If there the world has a conscience, it will stop these crimes,” he said.

Like farmers in the Gaza Strip, many fishermen have become dependent on international aid in order to survive because of the blockade on Gaza.
(Ezz Zanoun)
Since a ceasefire ended Israel’s 51 days of intensive bombing in late August, Palestinian fishermen in Gaza say they have only been allowed to access an area within six nautical miles off the coast. Yet, according to the 1993 Oslo accords, fishermen should be allowed to sail up to twenty nautical miles offshore.
Those who go near that boundary line are likely to be arrested or shot at by Israeli naval forces.
Israel has long tightened restrictions on Palestinian fishermen.
“Over the years, the Israeli military gradually reduced this range, severely damaging the livelihood of thousands of families and the availability of this basic and inexpensive food in the markets, which had served as a significant nutritional source,” according to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group.

Abdelmuti al-Habil he says that after his ship was hit by Israeli gunfire, he spent more than $10,000 on towing it back to shore and repairing it.
(Ezz Zanoun)
Abdelmuti Ibrahim al-Habil has fished up and down the Gaza Strip’s coast for more than a quarter century. “I started working as a fisherman with my father when I was just fifteen years old,” he told The Electronic Intifada.
His five sons, all in their twenties, work as fishermen with him. As he stands on the shore near Gaza City’s port, they work on the boat’s stalled motor behind him. After several minutes, the motor finally fires up and they clap and laugh.
“They’ve been working on fixing the boat for six weeks,” al-Habil said, adding that the boat was nearly destroyed when Israeli naval forces sunk it with gunfire on 26 January.

Tight Israeli restrictions prevent Palestinians from utilizing the full economic potential of Gaza’s port.
(Ezz Zanoun)
Like all Palestinian fishermen in Gaza, al-Habil has long suffered Israeli restrictions and attacks. But he never imagined that Israeli forces would go as far as to sink the boat.
“They arrested my [five] kids,” he said, recalling that they were taken to Ashdod, a port city in the south of present-day Israel. “For two days, we had no idea where they were. We didn’t know if they died when the boat went under.”
After Israeli intelligence and military officers interrogated them for forty-eight hours, al-Habil’s sons were dropped off at the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel.

Severe Israeli restrictions on exports from Gaza confine Palestinian fishermen to a caged market.
(Ezz Zanoun)
According to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA, Israeli forces fired live ammunition at Palestinian fishermen at least seventeen times between 27 January and 9 February.
In the first half of 2014, before the summer war in Gaza, Israeli naval forces fired at Palestinian fishermen in the six mile nautical zone at least 177 times, “nearly as much as in all of 2013,” according to the humanitarian charity Oxfam.

Hajj Rajab, who has fished up and down Gaza’s coast for more than six decades, says conditions have never been as difficult as the present.
(Ezz Zanoun)
Hajj Rajab, 81, has fished since he was a teenager.
“My father taught me to fish. I taught my children and grandchildren how to finish. I’ve worked here many years,” he told The Electronic Intifada. “It used to be good work. Not anymore.”
Rajab explained that Israeli shelling targeted dozens of fishermen’s storage areas, including his own, last summer.
“They destroyed everything,” he said. “They destroyed us … the fishermen.” Nonetheless, he continues to go out to sea each day. “There aren’t any other choices for fishermen. Most of us have done this our whole lives.”

Hajj Rajab’s storage area was destroyed by Israeli strikes during the assault on Gaza last summer.
(Ezz Zanoun)
The economic impact of Israel’s restrictions has been disastrous for the fishermen.
“Unfortunately, as you see now, they only allow us to reach up to six miles, and sometimes it’s only three,” Mahmoud al-Hissi, a twenty-year-old father, told The Electronic Intifada.

Mahmoud al-Hissi says that Israel’s restrictions on fishermen have made it impossible for them to provide for their families.
(Ezz Zanoun)
“After six miles, there are rocks and reef on the ocean floor – that’s where the real fish are,” al-Hissi said. “We could go out and fish for the morning and make money, instead of heading out for 24-hour shifts and barely breaking even.”
The fishermen work for a portion of the catch, which they sell in the market after returning to shore, al-Hissi explained. “I sometimes work for 24 hours and then only profit 75 shekels [approximately $19],” he said. “But recently it’s been less because there just aren’t any fish.”

Palestinian fishermen like Ahmad al-Hissi risk their lives to make a meager income.
(Ezz Zanoun)
Ahmad al-Hissi, Mahmoud’s cousin, explained that fishing has become a dangerous profession in recent years.
“If we stay about a kilometer from the six mile marker, we’re fine,” he told The Electronic Intifada. “But if we get any closer, they’ll [the Israeli navy] make problems for us.”

Like many fishermen, Shukri has been arrested by Israeli naval forces before. He says that he and his shipmates were forced to strip and jump in the water before being detained last fall.
(Ezz Zanoun)
Shukri, Ahmad and Mahmoud’s shipmate, said that they would be able to make a decent living if they weren’t restricted to such a small and overfished space.
“If we could just get out to about nine nautical miles, we’d be rich men,” he said.

Patrick O. Strickland is an independent journalist and regular contributor to The Electronic Intifada. Website: Twitter: @P_Strickland_.
Ezz Zanoun is a freelance photographer based in the Gaza Strip. His work has appeared at The Guardian, APA, Time, BuzzFeed, El Mundo, Reuters and many more. Follow his work on Facebook.