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2014 the toughest year on record for Gaza fishermen

Dec. 31, 2014 4:46 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 3, 2015 5:07 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- 2014 has been the toughest year on record for Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, a union official said Tuesday.

They faced recurring attacks before, during, and after Israel's summer offensive that left around 2,200 dead, and the periodic tightening of restrictions on their livelihoods has cost them millions.

Head of the Gaza Fishermen's Union Nizar Ayyash told Ma'an that the fishing sector in Gaza lost an estimated $9 million, particularly as a result of the fact that Israeli forces prevented the Strip's 4,000 fishermen from engaging in any fishing during the 50-day summer war.

This decline in revenues comes on top of the restrictions imposed for the last eight years as part of the Israeli siege, which severely limited the range Palestinians can fish in and led to a poverty rate around 90 percent for fishermen, even before the war.

Ayyash said that while previously fishermen used to catch 4,000 tons of fish, the total had since fallen to less than 1,500.

The economic hit Palestinian fishermen have taken over the past year comes in addition to the massive destruction of property they faced during the July-August conflict.

Harbors used by fishermen were targeted and destroyed by Israeli forces during the summer offensive, with 36 fishermen's storage rooms destroyed and three partially damaged.

52 boats were also destroyed, in addition to the fishermen's possessions being burned in the destruction.

Israel also detained Palestinians engaged in fishing numerous times during the year, carrying out 18 raids across the Strip in which 56 fishermen were detained. They also confiscated 21 boats and 14 fishing nets.

Despite the August ceasefire agreement, Israel resumed targeting Gazan fishermen soon after.

Although the agreement ostensibly increased the fishing zone allotted to Palestinians from three nautical miles to six and was meant to push it to twelve, fishermen say that so far Israel has kept it at six and has even attacked within that limit.

All this despite the fact that the zone is technically set at 20 nautical miles, according to the Oslo agreements signed between Israel and the PA in the early 1990s.

Researcher in the social and economic rights department of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights Azzam Shaath said that this year has been the most difficult year on record for fishermen.

Shaath added that he hoped that "fishermen's suffering would end after the Israeli offensive on Gaza since the peace agreement included them, but that did not happen and their suffering became worse since Israel did not commit to the agreement and prevented fishermen from doing their jobs."
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