Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gaza fishing industry hit hard by siege

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PressTV - Gaza fishing industry hit hard by siege:

Sat Mar 5, 2011 9:31PM
Yousef al-Helou, Press TV, Gaza

"The fishing sector in Gaza has suffered a sharp blow as the Israeli naval blockade, high fuel costs and lack of parts have made profitable catches almost impossible.

Gaza fishermen, are among the most hardly hit and the livelihood of many families are in danger as they depend directly on the fishing industry. Each of these poor fishermen has a story of their own to tell.

Mohammad Al-Bardaweel was released last week after spending 5 years in Israeli jails; he was abducted by the Israeli navy in May 2006 while fishing off the seashore of Khanyounis in southern Gaza. Mohammad was subjected to torture and medical negligence behind bars, as a result of which he lost his eye.

Gaza fishermen have learned to brave dangerous waters, but can't go too deep into the Mediterranean as the strict Israeli naval blockade is still in place.

The ban on entering deep waters has denied fishermen access to areas abundant with fish. This is the scene in Gaza harbor, 10s of fishing boats are anchored in the small port, most of which are left broken since their spare parts are hard to find under the siege.

There are about 3700 fishermen in the Gaza strip, and about 40,000 people depend on the fishing industry. The blockade has restricted access to the sea to 3 nautical miles from the shore and fishermen say this narrow stretch of water is almost fished out.

Under the so-called 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel retained military control of Gaza's territorial waters and agreed to allow fishing boats to sail into the Mediterranean for up to 20 nautical miles, but that is just in theory.

According to the fishermen syndicate, at least seven fishermen have been killed, and about 200 injured in addition to 10's abducted since the outbreak of Al-Aqsa intifada in the year 2000.

Shooting at Gazan fishermen by the Israeli navy has become a recurring news item, but what is abnormal is the great defiance and risk these fishermen are willing to take and endure just to feed their children and support their families.

People here say lack of firm response on the part of the international community has emboldened Israel to continue its actions.

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