Israel's ban on fish exports from Gaza incurs heavy loses for Palestinian fish traders
For a week, dozens of fish traders in the besieged coastal enclave have been incurring heavy losses due to Israel's ban on exporting fish from Gaza into the occupied West Bank.
Last Wednesday, the Israeli authorities claimed that the decision came as a result of attempts made by the West Bank-based Palestinian traders to transport about 20 tons of Gaza fish into Israeli cities.
Speaking to The New Arab, the fish traders said that they have been struggling to keep their families afloat, mainly as they lost the main source of marketing their fish.
Mohammed al-Haj, a Gaza-based fish trader, complained that he incurred about $US 2,000 in losses in less than a week, stressing that if the ban lasted any further, he will not be able to deal with the basic needs of his family as well as his workers.
"I hardly make $US 200 a day (...) I pay part of them as expenses of the fishing operation and transportation," the 35-year-old man told TNA, saying that "the Israeli decision is unjust and it will turn us to poor people."
Usually, al-Haj explains, local traders resort to exporting high-priced fish to the West Bank in light of the poor purchasing power of the Gaza market due to the high rates of unemployment and poverty.
"Banning export fish means that we will sell our fish in local markets with fewer prices, which means that we will not be able to deal with the basic needs of our work," he stressed.
Similarly, Emad Abu Ayyash, a Gaza-based fish trader, lost his only source of income.
"I am working day-by-day to make about $US 100 to feed my family and pay expenses for my sons' university education," said the 56-year-old father of eight.
In Gaza, he added, all the people are struggling to live and deal with the unprecedented crises resulting from the Israeli occupation, saying: "Israel deliberately humiliates us by tightening its limits on us, only to keep us living in a closed cycle of endless suffers."
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 fishermen 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 to stop the Great Return March that launched in 2018.
However, the fishermen are suffering because of the obstacles issued by the Israeli naval forces as well as the sudden bans, based on the political situations with the Gaza-run Islamic Hamas movement.
Moreover, Israel banned the entry of several materials that it claimed were used for making weapons. Among them were boats, fibreglass, nets, and other essential fishing materials.
According to the Fishermen's Syndicate in the Gaza Strip, some 4,000 Palestinian fishermen live in the besieged enclave. At the same time, approximately 40,000 Gazans work in professions directly or indirectly related to fishing.
"Gaza exports about 80 tons of fish to the West Bank per month and this helps to operate the fishing sector in the territory," Zakaria Baker, an official from the fishers' committees in the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in the Gaza Strip, said to TNA.
"The Israeli decision aims at destroying the fishing sector in Gaza to gain political benefits, he added.