Israeli Naval Forces Target Fishermen, Damage Two Boats Offshore Gaza

GAZA, March 19, 2015 (WAFA) – Israeli army Thursday opened fire towards Palestinian fishermen sailing in their boats offshore Gaza city who were sailing four miles into the sea and damaged two boats at the least, according to WAFA correspondent.

Reports from Gaza showed that the fishermen in the damaged boats had to sail back to escape from the Israeli naval forces, which did not hesitate to open fire at the fragile boats.

Israeli navy opens fire at fishermen almost on a daily basis. In the recent weeks, a fisherman was killed and another was injured after Israeli naval boats targeted them with gunfire, despite sailing within the six-nautical-mile zone offshore the Gaza Strip.

The attacks against fishermen in Gaza are not only jeopardizing their lives, but also the lives of their families and the economy in the war-weary strip. Fishing is considered the main industry in Gaza, which continues to be undermined by Israel, causing the entire community to suffer from the worsening economic conditions.

OXFAM reported on the fishing industry and fishermen saying, “With most of the fish at least nine miles out at sea, they have already been struggling to make a living and now 90 percent of them need international aid.”

A 59-year-old Palestinian fisherman, Mohammad, was quoted in a 2013 OCHA report speaking about the hardship of being a fisherman in Gaza. He said, “Recently, I had to accept a marriage proposal for my 17-year-old daughter, because I can’t provide her with proper food and housing, let alone send her to college. I hope she will have a better life with her husband.”

The sea areas accessible to fishermen in Gaza witnessed major reduction since 1994. The report said that in 1994, Palestinian fishermen had access to 20 NM off the Gaza shores.

However in 2002 they were allowed access to 12 miles, and later reduced in 2006 to six NM. However, at the end of the Israeli military offensive “Cast Lead” in January 2009, the accessible area was further reduced to just three NM. After the latest ceasefire agreement it was expanded again to six NM.

According to OCHA’s Access Restricted Areas (ara) in the Gaza Strip report of 2013, “Since June 2007, five Palestinian fishermen were killed and 25 injured when Israeli naval forces opened fire to enforce access restrictions.’

In a related issue, tensions continue in the strip with Israeli soldiers firing at Palestinian farmers who attempted to access their agricultural land at the borders. They were faced by Israeli border guards, who forced them to leave their land at once.

ANERA said in a 2013 report that “Agriculture in Gaza has also been hit hard by the blockade on exports and imports. A total of 46 percent of agricultural land in Gaza is inaccessible or unusable due to destruction of land during “Operation Cast Lead” and by the “security buffer zone” along Gaza’s northern and eastern borders with Israel.”

It reported that the buffer zone alone contains 29 percent of Gaza’s arable land; A large percentage when compared to the large number of Palestinian refugees who live in Gaza, which is estimated at around 1,760,037 in 2014 by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.