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As search for missing fisherman in Gaza continues, family announces his death

Jan. 7, 2017 11:58 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 9, 2017 8:17 P.M.)
GAZA CITY(Ma'an) -- The family of Palestinian fisherman Muhammad al-Hissi, who went missing Wednesday after an encounter with Israeli forces, announced his death on Friday, despite his body having yet to be recovered.

Locals told Ma’an at the time of the incident that Israeli forces purposely attacked and sunk al-Hissi’s boat. Palestinian authorities, reportedly with the help of Israeli authorities, launched a search of the 33-year-old’s body that was still ongoing as of Thursday.

The family said in a statement that “after consultations and after listening to witnesses who watched what had happened, we have decided to announce the death of Muhammad and declare him a martyr for Gods’ reward,” using a common term used for any Palestinian killed by Israeli forces.

The family added that Israel was fully responsible for the death, since Israeli forces had “deliberately sunk his boat.”

The statement also urged the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other international human rights groups to put pressure on Israel to find and return al-Hissi’s body and to stop the routine attacks on Gaza fishermen.

An absentee funeral prayer will be performed for the missing fisherman on Saturday, according to the family, after midday prayers at the Gaza port mosque. A symbolic funeral will also be organized from the mosque to the family’s shared meeting hall in the al-Shati refugee camp.

Meanwhile, the Hamas movement released a statement on Thursday, condemning the "direct assault" on al-Hissi's boat, calling it an "organized and hideous crime."

Spokesperson for the movement Abd al-Latif al-Qanou said the incident called for a stand by international and rights institutions "to stop Israeli crimes against Palestinians."

The Islamic Jihad movement also released a statement Thursday, calling the incident a "terrorist assault," and added that the missing fisherman represented a new violation of the declared ceasefire in 2014.

Gazan fishermen, whose numbers are estimated to be around 4,000, have suffered from the near decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip, which limits their incursions to just six nautical miles into the sea in accordance with the ceasefire agreement signed with Palestinian factions in 2014.

The Israeli army regularly open fires on Palestinian fishermen and farmers along the border areas, despite a ceasefire agreement that ended the 2014 war.

There have also been intermittent reports of Israeli forces attempting to sink the boats of fishermen as they approach Israel’s unilaterally declared “buffer zone,” which lies on both the land and sea sides of Gaza.
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