BERNAMA – | January 16, 2011 17:46 PM
By Saleh Hasan
GAZA, Jan 16 (Bernama) — The 3,700-odd fishermen in the blockaded Gaza Strip here know very well what troubled water is.
Many barely find their living to feed their families and are turning away from the Mediterranean Sea.
Faoud Abu Odah, for instance, resolved to give up his craft due to the risks of being shot by Israeli troops.
Abu Odah, 61, believes that fishing which was his main source, could no longer provide living for his family which comprises 10 persons.
Working as a fisherman since his childhood, Abu Odah is convinced that casting his trawl in Gaza shore may cost him his life.
“Fishing is impossible because of the Israeli gunboats which shoot at us indiscriminately,” he told Bernama.
According to the Oslo Accord which was signed by the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat with the Israeli side, Palestinian fishermen can fish in the Mediterranean Sea up to 20 nautical miles away from Gaza’s shoreline.
The limit for fishermen now stood at just 3 nautical miles since Israel imposed its siege on Gaza in 2007.
Sami Baker, 31, had a hard experience while fishing in Gaza Shore.
While casting his net, Sami made harrowing escape from death after the Israeli navy heavily opened its fire at him and his cousin who was killed in the incident.
His boat and tools were largely damaged by the Israeli’s fire.
He had no desire to ride his boat again after the horrible scene he witnesses.
“There is no hope if feeding my children would cost me my life,” said the fisherman.
Al-Mazen Center for Human rights in Gaza said the suffering of Gaza fishermen is increasing, leading to a high level of unemployment in the narrow enclave.
Poverty is striking around 90 per cent of Palestinian fishermen in Gaza Strip.
The head of the Palestinian fishermen union in Gaza Nezar Ayash called on the international community to end the suffering of the fishermen.
“Fishing at Gaza Shore is a risky adventure because of the ongoing targeting of the fishermen by the Israelis,” said Ayash.
According to the Al-Mazen Center, between 1 May 2009 and Nov 30 last year, the Israeli forces carried out 53 attacks against fishermen.
Two men were killed, seven injured and 42 arrested, while 17 fishing boats were confiscated and one destroyed.
The latest was when Israeli navy arrested three Palestinian fishermen off Gaza’s shore early this month after they intercepted and sank a small fishing boat, forcing the three to climb to the gunboat.
The regime said it targetted fishermen who violated the permitted fishing zone but Hamas minister of agriculture Mohammed Al-Agha dismissed this as “baseless and has no justification.”
“There should be practical steps for stopping the Israeli brutal attacks on the fishermen.
“They are preventing the fishermen from getting their source of living,” he said.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, nearly 90 per cent of Gaza’s fishermen are now considered either poor (with a monthly income of between US$100 and US$190) or very poor (earning less than US$100 a month), up from 50 per cent in 2008.