RAMALLAH, July 27 (JMCC) - Palestinian fishermen fight a daily battle with Israeli gunships and water cannon, trying to make a living for their families. Now, even the boat of an international monitoring group is attacked, reports the Guardian
from the sea.
Fisherman Hani al-Asi, with a family of 12, is casting his nets as the Israeli navy approaches.
We see them every day, he said, shrugging at the gunboat's presence. I got used to this. Every day they are around us - shooting, damaging the boat, sometimes people are injured. If we were scared, we wouldn't fish. But we have nothing else to do.
With the boat rocking forcefully, the gunboat's crew addressed Asi in Arabic through its loudspeaker. You are in a forbidden area. Go back. Asi pulled in the lines and headed back to port.
The best place to fish is more than 10 miles out, he said. But every time we exceed three miles, they shoot at us, use the water [cannon], take the nets. Even today when foreigners are with us, they were trying to tip the boat over.
Under the 1993 Oslo accords, Palestinian fishermen were permitted to fish up to 20 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza. Over the past 18 years, the fishing area has been successively eroded, most recently in 2007 when Israel imposed a limit of three nautical miles as part of its land and sea blockade of Gaza after Hamas took control of the territory.
But fishermen and human rights groups say that, since the war in Gaza in 2008-09, the Israeli military regularly enforces a limit even closer to the shore.
The restriction has devastated Gaza's fishing industry. It is a catastrophic situation, said Khalil Shaheen of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Sixty thousand people are dependent on [the fishing industry], and 85% of daily income has been lost.