17 March 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, GazaA young curly-haired boy snores solemnly in a hot room in Al-Shifa hospital in central Gaza City. He lays wrapped in a blanket and is connected to a drip. His brothers and cousins sit around his bed on yet another hospital visit. “This is the life we face as fishermen: the Israeli’s shoot at us daily and injuries are frequent,” says one of the visitors.
Yasser Nasser Bakr, 19 years old, received a bullet in his abdomen on the morning of March 16th, while he was out fishing.
“We went out with a series of small hasakas (traditional fishing boats) at about 5.30 am this morning. At 6:30 AM the Israeli Navy started shooting at us. They shot around us and at the boats for about five minutes. They would stop and open fire again after a while. This was ongoing until Yasser was injured at approximately 10:30 AM,” says his brother who sailed with him. “I was petrified and just wanted one thing: to leave. However, this happens on a daily basis, so we cannot withdraw, we need to continue in these circumstances, otherwise we wouldn’t catch a single fish.”
At 1.5 nautical miles the fishermen met with the Israeli gunboat, which got as close as 30 meters to the fishing boats. “And they speak Arabic very well, insulting us and telling us to ‘get the hell out of of here,’ while we are righteously there according to their laws,” says Yasser’s brother.A boy jumps up and demonstrates how only three days ago he laid down on the deck of the boat protecting his head with his arms after threats of the captain of the gunboat. “He said to us: ‘I’ll kill the child!’, while he was pointing his M16 machine gun to my face!” cries 17 year old Khalil.
Gazan fishermen collectively suffer from Israel’s unilaterally imposed sea blockade of but 3 nautical miles, which cuts them off from the big schools of fish. The Bakr family has more misery accounted to Israel though. On July 5th 2010, Yasser’s brother, Ala’am Bakr was shot while fishing. On September 24th, the Bakr family suffered a tragic loss: Mansour Bakr was killed at sea. Just two months ago, the Navy arrested four members of the Bakr family. While they were released the same day, their boat remains confiscated, leaving these men and their families without income.
More visitors wander into the hospital room to visit Yasser, who wakes up with groans of pain. The fishermen show us videos of how they were attacked previously. When asked if they have a message to share with the outside world, they yelled: “We want the sea back, help us open the sea for us again.”