Canadians stand in solidarity with Gaza’s besieged farmers, fishermen
GAZA CITY (IPS) - “From the coast to eight miles out, the sea is like a desert: it’s sandy and there are no fish,” said Mohammed al-Bakri, tracing a thick line on the wall map before him.
As the general manager of Gaza’s Union of Agricultural Work Committees, al-Bakri is well-versed in the woes of Gaza’s fishermen and farmers. “The Israeli navy attacks the fishermen, arrests them and takes their boats, even within three miles,” he said, referring to the limit the Israeli authorities have unilaterally imposed on Palestinian fishermen.
Under the Oslo accords, Palestinian fishermen are authorized to fish 20 nautical miles into Gaza’s sea. The Israeli authorities have illegally downsized Palestinian fishing waters, using lethal violence to enforce new restrictions on fishing. Palestinian fishermen are routinely attacked by the Israeli navy, using machine guns, water cannons and shells. Abductions of fishermen also occur.
“When the fishermen are arrested, they just have a boat and a net,” al-Bakri said. “No weapons; they are just trying to catch to sell at the market, to earn money for their families.”
“More than 500 fishermen have been arrested and at least 12 killed by the Israeli navy,” he added.
With more than 3,600 fishermen and 70,000 persons dependent on income from the sea, Gaza’s fishing industry has been devastated by such Israeli tactics and policies. “When there is no income, fishermen must depend on food aid from the United Nations,” said al-Bakri. “But there are a lot of other needs, like housing, clothing, medical care, education.
“If the situation continues like this, we won’t see any fishermen on the sea in the future.”
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