Family of Palestinian fisherman shot at sea say Egyptian forces responsible
RAFAH, Gaza - A Palestinian fisherman was shot dead off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening - with relatives accusing Egyptian naval forces of being behind his death.
Mustafa Khadr Abu Odah, 32, was sailing off the coast of the city of Rafah near the border with Egypt with four other fisherman when he was targeted by Egyptian naval forces, according to his family.
“An Egyptian navy boat cordoned off the fishing boat and opened fire toward the fishermen on board, killing Mustafa with three bullets - one in his chest and two others in his abdomen,” his father, Khader Abu Odah, told Middle East Eye.
According to Khader Abu Odah, his son’s last words were directed at the Egyptian forces: “We are very poor fishermen, we haven’t done anything wrong.”
“This is an unacceptable deed,” the father said. “The Egyptians could have arrested him if he was doing anything illegal instead of killing him.”
Mustafa’s mother, Fayza, told Middle East Eye that the young man depended on fishing to earn a living for him and his family - despite the heavy restrictions on fishing zone limits enforced by the Israeli-led blockade of the Gaza Strip.
“My son was living in very harsh life conditions, he had four kids and could hardly provide for them,” she said. “I’m really shocked, and wondering why Egyptian delegations would come to Gaza to try to resolve issues with Israel while killing our kids near their border.”
An Egyptian military source denied the report without elaborating, according to Reuters.
For Fayza and Khader Abu Odah, Mustafa’s death on Wednesday was not the first tragedy to befall their family.
“Mustafa is my second son to be killed. I have already lost a son in the 2008 war on Gaza,” Fayza said.
A large number of people in Gaza depend on fishing as their main source of income, despite Israel restricting the fishing zone between three to nine nautical miles off the coast as part of its 11-year siege on the Palestinian territory.
According to the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Israeli forces have attacked fishermen on at least 15 occasions in recent months, injuring two people, arresting ten and seizing three boats.
While Egyptian attacks on Gaza fishermen are rare, they do happen, Gaza fishermen union coordinator Nizar Ayyash told Middle East Eye.
The previous attack had seen 33-year-old father of four Abdullah Zeidan shot in the chest and killed by Egyptian forces while working at sea in January.
Ayyash also noted the death of fisherman Feras Miqdad in November 2015, and of Mohammed Ibrahim in 2010.
“These are the martyr breadwinners,” Ayyash said. “They are suffering under the aggressive occupation and getting shot at every deay by the Israeli navy - there is no reason why Egypt, an Arab country, should take these unreasonable actions against the Palestinian people.
“It is the Palestinian government’s duty to force Egypt to investigate the case and protect Palestinians.”