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Three Palestinian fishermen wounded by Israeli navy off Gaza's coast

The Israeli navy maintains a campaign of chasing and damaging Palestinian fishing boats and nets, fishermen tell MEE
Jaber Bakr was hit in the shoulder with an Israeli rubber-coated bullet while fishing off Gaza's coast on 16 June 2022. (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)
Jaber Bakr was hit in the shoulder with an Israeli rubber-coated bullet while fishing off Gaza's coast, on 16 June 2022 (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)
By Mohammed al-Hajjar in Gaza Strip

The Israeli navy fired rubber-coated bullets at Palestinian fishermen on two fishing boats off the shore of the besieged Gaza Strip on Thursday, leaving three people wounded. 

The trio - Naser Ali Bakr, Muhammad Jaber Bakr and Muhammad Fakhri Bakr - were all taken to hospital for treatment, where their injuries were described as moderate.

Nizar Ayyash, head of the Gaza Strip's fishermen's syndicate, told Middle East Eye that since 2014 the Israeli navy had escalated its campaign against Palestinian fishermen, chasing and damaging their boats and fishing nets as well as arresting some of them.

"In 2020, almost 22 fishermen were arrested. However, 20 fishermen were interrogated by Israel just last week, and one boat was seized while the engines of another 11 boats were confiscated and taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Two fishermen were arrested in the past weeks and remain detained," Ayyash told MEE. 

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He accused the Israeli navy of attempting to empty the sea of Palestinian fishermen and targeting small boats with live bullets.

As part of Israel's land, air and sea blockade on Gaza, boats are not allowed to stray beyond a fixed limit to the north towards Israel, and Egypt keeps similar limitations to the southwest.

Under the Oslo Accords, Palestinian fishermen are allowed to fish up to 20 nautical miles into the Mediterranean Sea, but Israel regularly reduces the limit down to as low as six nautical miles.

'We'll break this siege'

Jaber Bakr, who has worked as a fisherman since 2009, told MEE that they were fishing within four miles when they were attacked by the Israeli boat which had around ten soldiers on board.

"At 7am, while we were fishing, the sun rose and we saw two Israeli boats, one of them a rubber speed boat.

"Later in the day, the rubber boat cornered us and started shooting bullets at us without warning, while we were almost a mile and half in the sea," Jaber Bakr told MEE.

He tried to switch the boat engine on and escape, but the navy soldiers kept shooting in the direction of his boat. Jaber Bakr, who was with his cousin, was injured in his shoulder by a rubber-coated bullet, and his boat was damaged. His cousin, Nasser Ali, was also injured in the incident.

Jaber Bakr had already been arrested by the Israeli navy while fishing during the last year and a half, he told MEE.

Rubber-coated bullets used by the Israeli navy against fishermen off the coast of Gaza held by a Palestinian child on 16 June 2022. (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)
Rubber-coated bullets used by the Israeli navy against fishermen off the coast of Gaza are held by a Palestinian child, on 16 June 2022 (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)

Awwad al-Saaedi, a veteran fisherman, told MEE that he was arrested several times by the Israeli navy and was accused of breaching the fishing zone in the Mediterranean.

"However, the Israeli forces could arrest Palestinian fishermen right here in the Gaza port. Israel considers the sea as theirs," he said.

'No matter how long they besiege us, we'll break this siege'

- Awwad al-Saaedi, Palesitnian fisherman

Saaedi added that Palestinian fishermen will not be deterred by Israeli actions.

"We'll challenge the occupation and keep resisting. Despite all that they do to us, we are steadfast. No matter how long they besiege us, we'll break this siege," he added.

Fishing is one of the biggest industries in the coastal enclave, home to some 2.1 million Palestinians. 

Israel has maintained its crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007, and critics say this amounts to collective punishment of the impoverished enclave's residents.

Egypt also upholds the siege, limiting movement in and out of Gaza on its border.

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