Gaza's fisherpeople attacked

November 22, 2008

Fishing boats have become the latest target in Israel's war on the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Fifteen local fishermen and three international solidarity activists were arrested on November 18 following an International Solidarity Movement (ISM)-inspired action to expose the Israeli navy's attacks on local fishing boats, a article reported that day.

While all three ISM activists currently face deportation, all fifteen local fishermen have since been released.

While onboard one of the many fishing boats that travel off the coast of Gaza each day, the ISM activists acted as human shields and were able to capture footage of an Israeli navy ship firing on the fishing vessel.

Due to Israel's strict blockade of Gaza, fishing has become a vital industry. It is a means of survival for tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Israel's blockade has created a situation where the Palestinian economy is almost totally dependent on foreign assistance.

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, fishing boats are able to sail up to 20 miles from the coast. But, as one of the arrested ISM activists Andrew Muncie explained to Radio Netherlands on November 17, this is not always adhered to,

"They'll approach a boat. They'll circle it, fire. They will throw explosives into the water near the boat to destabilise it.

"This type of behaviour from the Israeli navy takes place anywhere within Gazan territorial waters. It does not happen at the six-mile mark. It happens as close as a mile from the shore.

"There's really no area at all at sea where the fishermen are safe."

Israel continues to claim the right to attack Palestinian vessels in the name of defence. "Unfortunately, Gaza is turning more and more into a barrel of explosives, smuggled through the sea and through tunnels from Egypt", Israeli army spokesperson Major Avital Leibovitch said.

According to the November 4 Scotsman, one fisherperson without a foreign escort, Mohammed Musleh, who was without foreign escort, was seriously wounded by Israeli gunfire in October.

Muncie argued that the Israeli forces lack of regard for Palestinian life makes international observers an essential element in the struggle against injustice.
"The Israeli soldiers and higher commanders are quite well aware they can shoot Palestinian civilians without any recourse and even without negative publicity", Muncie told the Scotsman.

"They are aware that the same doesn't apply to foreigners like myself."

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