Gaza's fishermen struggle to live as Israel tightens restrictions
Speaking to The New Arab in separate remarks, fishermen complained about how they cannot work freely in the sea despite the Israeli claims of allowing them to fish over 15 nautical miles.
Every day, according to the fishers, the Israeli naval forces deliberately violate their rights under the pretext that the fishermen were outside the fishing area, including firing at the boats, arresting the fishers, as well as expelling them from the sea.
"Fishing in the Gaza sea is a journey of trouble amid the Israeli obstacles," Samih Haniya, a fisherman from the al-Shati refugee camp in western Gaza, said to TNA.
The 46-year-old father of seven said that he was subjected to Israeli violations last winter season when the Israeli naval forces surrounded his small boat and opened fire on it despite him being within the fishing area.
"The weather was cold and they forced me to leave my boat and swim about eight nautical miles to reach the beach," he recalled. "I thought that I was going to drown as the waves were strong and high.”
"I miraculously survived but I became hopeless as I lost my only source of income and remained unemployed for months," he added.
"I do not know why Israel is still tightening the screws on us? (...) we (fishers) are poor people who can barely make US$20 a day to keep our families afloat," he said.
For Mohammed Abu Hasira, another fisherman from Gaza, the situation was more complicated as he lost his son, who was killed by Israeli naval, and five of his boats were taken by the forces.
"Since then, I gave up the sea and stopped fishing," the 59-year-old father of eleven said to TNA. However, he adds, "I rented my two remaining boats to other fishers to gain some money."
Three months later, the naval forces damaged his boats too. Now, he cannot even repair them as the Israeli authorities prevent the entry of maintenance materials such as fibreglass and glass panels into the Gaza Strip.
"The matter is clear," Abu Hasira said, "Israel deliberately attack us to keep us under the poverty line and uses us as a card against the Gaza-run Hamas movement during their conflict."
Since 2007, Israel has imposed a tightened blockade on the coastal enclave after Hamas, which won the legislative elections in 2006, ruled the territory.
For years, the fishers were prevented from fishing more than 3 nautical miles off the Gazan shore. But, in 2019, Israel decided to allow fishermen to reach 15 nautical miles, according to the "calm understandings" with Hamas in a bid to stop the Great Return March that launched in 2018.
"The facilities that Israel claims are just a lie. In recent years, it has deliberately circumvented the naval blockade, by improving its image by claiming to expand the fishing area to 15 nautical miles," Zakaria Baker, an official from the fishers' committees in the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in the Gaza Strip, said to TNA.
"Israel divided the 40-kilometre coast of the Gaza Strip into several sections (...) and all the time, its forces pursuit fishermen and prevent them from making living," Baker said.
"About 280 fishing boats need immediate maintenance. In addition, all the engines of the fishing boats without exception, are out of service which means that the fishers are forced to live under endless suffering," he explained.
Baker also complained that none of the Palestinian factions prioritised the fishermen's issue despite carrying out many negotiations with the Israeli occupation.