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ISM Rafah: Report from fishing action in Gaza

Report by Donna Wallach – ISM and Free Gaza Movement volunteer reporting on fishing boat actions from Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestine.

Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestine,19th September, 2008. On the morning of Friday 19th September and the 19th day of Ramadan, about 5 Palestinian fishing boats left Gaza City port for another day of trawling off the coast of Gaza Strip. It was a very clear day and I could easily see the coast the entire day.

When the boat I was on reached 7 miles out, an Israeli Naval gunboat speedily approached and fired at the fishing boat. One of the soldiers called for the captain of the boat and yelled at him to stop the boat. Continuing in a derogatory tone of voice, the Israeli soldier told the captain to only sail up and down the coast and not to go further out into the sea. The captain told the soldier that he needed to go out 10 miles to trawl for fish. I also spoke to the gunboat and reiterated that the fishermen needed to go out ten miles. This time the gunboat did not continue to fire upon this boat. I think in the end we only went out to eight miles. For the remainder of the day we were able to trawl for fish in relative peace.

However, just after the sun went going down, after the meal for breaking the fast for the day, an Israeli Naval gunboat fired upon another Palestinian fishing boat and we heard over the VHF radio an international tell the Israeli Navy “We are Palestinian fishermen, fishing in Palestinian waters. Stop shooting!”

In the evening, the captain of the boat told me that it costs him $1,000 a day of diesel fuel to power his fishing boat. Considering that the catch for the day was small, as it often is for the Palestinian fishermen up and down the coast, it is hard to understand how they succeed to make a living. In addition to the exceptionally high cost of fuel, there are either no spare parts for broken, damaged, or lost equipment, or the cost of the spare parts are ten times the normal cost – the Israeli siege continues to impact every aspect of Palestinian life. The siege must end, now!