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Gaza fishermen demonstrate at UN in protest of Israeli attacks on their livelihoods

PNN | Fishing Under Fire

14 August 2009

Fishermen in the Gaza Strip are the frequent targets of Israeli forces. Israeli naval ships sometimes open fire, or board boats, arrest the fishermen, even confiscate nets and the boats themselves.

Today in Gaza, Palestinian fishermen are demonstrating against the Israeli policies that are destroying their livelihood. The Palestinian fishing industry has lost millions in revenue since the siege began three years ago, that has led to a ban on exports of fish, imports of equipment, and an increase in attacks by the Israelis.

During the three-weeks of major Israeli attacks in late December and January the losses to the agriculture and fishing sector, for which statistics are combined, were 311,000 USD in those three weeks alone. The head of the Fishermen’s Association, Nizar Ayash, reported as long ago as March of 2007 that losses incurred in the fishing sector due to Israeli practices amounted to 16 million dollars. There are approximately 3,000 Palestinians engaged in the fishing trade, which translates into 40,000 people living on that income.

Palestinian Legislative Council member and Chairman of the People’s Committee against the Blockade, Jamal Al Khudari, said today that Palestinian fishermen are maintaining their profession and their right to fish in the Sea of Gaza, despite the intense Israeli attacks. Under Article 11 of the Israeli-Palestinian Protocol, it is stipulated that Palestinian fishing boats have the right to go out 20 nautical miles from the coast in a specific region. The number has been reduced by the Israelis several times and is now down to three miles, yet still some fishermen on the shores face fire.

During a march on the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City, Al Khudari reiterated what a serious threat the fishermen and their families are under.

He said that by reducing the area allowed for Palestinian fishing in Gaza territorial waters from 15 to just three nautical miles, the occupying forces are contradicting signed agreements.

A call was issued to the international community to pressure the Israelis to abide international law and agreements, and to stop the harassment of the Palestinian fishing trade.