Israeli Navy Opens Fire on Palestinian Fishermen in Gaza

GAZA, February 2, 2015 (WAFA) – Israeli Navy Monday continued its almost day to day breach of the truce agreement reached on August 26, 2014, and opened fire toward Palestinian fishermen offshore Gaza, according to witnesses.

One of the Fishermen informed WAFA correspondent in Gaza that Israeli naval gunboats opened its heavy machinegun-fire randomly at fishermen sailing within the six-nautical miles allowed fishing zone, causing financial damage to one of the boats.

Despite of the use of heavy fire against unarmed fishermen in vulnerable boats, no injuries were reported.

Israeli Navy targets fishing boats almost on a daily basis in a clear breach of the Egyptian brokered truce agreement reached on August 26 of last year. This agreement includes allowing Palestinian fishermen to sail within six nautical miles in the Gaza Sea.

The majority of Palestinians in Gaza depend on the fishing industry as their primary source for living. However, being confined so close to shore led to poorer catches for fishermen in terms of fish size, value and quantity.

“There are about 3,700 full-time fishermen in the Gaza Strip ready to serve a market of 1.7 million Palestinians. They used to export to Israel. Now Gaza imports about 80 of its needs from the Egyptians and the Israelis,” reported Reuters.

Mahmoud Al-Assi, 66, a fisherman most of his life, said ‘Once we made enough to let us give away fish to the poor and needy people. These days we are begging for aid.”

The head of Gaza’s Fishermen Association Nizar Ayyash says that about 98% of Gaza fishermen fall below the poverty line.

The Israeli-imposed fishing limit and the sewage water being poured into the sea means that Gaza’s fishermen are forced to fish in mostly polluted water, reported the United Nations’ Reliefweb website.

Reliefweb highlighted the case of 52 year-old Khalil Al-Habil, a Palestine refugee living in Gaza, who has been a fisherman for all of his adult life. The Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave in recent years has made it extremely difficult for him to support his family of 12.

“The water is not clear like it used to be decades ago. Even at cheap prices, people refrain from buying this unhealthy fish and many of us hardly manage to sell anything”, Al-Habil added.

This had a detrimental effect on al-Habil’s ability to continue fishing, forcing him to sell his wife’s jewelry, and take loans from relatives and other sources to buy a motorboat.

“It became a nightmare. I sank into pool of debts and am unable to make ends meet,” al-Habil said.