Gaza Shores…Empty Nets, Shipwrecks

The Israeli siege left much of the fishing fleet in Gaza lying idle at the waterside

Gaza Shores…Empty Nets, Shipwrecks

Nine months ago, Gaza's fishermen used to ply their lucrative trade up and down a 40-kilometre Mediterranean coastline and return home with handsome money to feed their extended families.

Today, they are not able to go to sea, fearing trigger-happy Israeli navy soldiers and gunboats circling around to tightly enforce a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip's shores.

"According to all Israel-Palestinian agreements, we should be able to fish 20 nautical miles offshore, but we could never go further than 10 and now it's only three," Mohammed Hessi, the spokesman of the Gaza City fishermen's union, told media.

Gaza's port is now an eyesore of rusting iron roofs and shipwrecks, virtually deserted.

In the past, a fisherman's catch was about 30,000 tonnes of fish a day. Now, he might net about that much in a month.

Hessi, 54, now has to tighten his net.

SO CLOSE TO SHORE THE FISH TOO SMALL

"So close to shore the fish are too small," he explained. But it is only "when they (the Israelis) let me fish," he added.

Israel had slapped a crippling siege on the Gaza Strip after Hamas took control of the tiny territory last June following a bloody internecine conflict with rival Fatah.

International and UN aid groups, most of which have been operating in the impoverished Gaza Strip for decades, blame the Israeli blockade for the deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

A group of eight British rights organizations said in a joint report earlier this month that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were living through the worst humanitarian crisis in 40 years due to the ongoing Israeli blockade.

DANGEROUS VENTURE TO FEED THEIR FAMILIES

The first of the year's two-month fishing seasons has just started and many fishermen are sitting helpless beside their idle boats docking at the waterside.

Some of them, however, decided to head out to sea in a dangerous venture to feed their families and make ends meet.

"We risk our lives, not because of the sea but because of the Israeli navy patrol boats," Hessi said desperately.

"Not a day goes by when we don't get shot at. Since 2006 there have been two deaths, 20 people suffering gunshot wounds and about 20 prisoners."

Alaa Brek, 24, was shot by Israel patrol boats while pulling up his net.

"I was pulling up my net when an Israeli patrol boat circled twice around my boat before firing at me and leaving," said Brek, who suffered severe bullet wounds.

"I lost a lot of blood," recalled Brek, the only breadwinner of his family of 10.

The fishermen are waiting patiently for the day when Israel lifts its punishing siege, which left the vital fishing industry dying and Gaza's economy collapsing.

Adding to their suffering is the skyrocketing prices of fuel, which has been scarce in Gaza because of the blockade.

"Our tanks are empty because of the border closure. Black market fuel is six times the normal price market and my trawler needs 700 liters a day — it's impossible," said Hessi, who like many others now lives off UN food handouts.

"All I ask is to be allowed to support my 12 children and my employees," he added.

IslamOnline Net & Agencies
Last Mod: 23 Mart 2008, 13:19
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