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Palestinians in Gaza mourn fisherman 'killed in cold blood' by Israeli forces

May 16, 2017 6:24 P.M. (Updated: May 17, 2017 7:49 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip took part in the funeral march on Tuesday for 26-year-old Muhammad Majid Bakr, an unarmed fisherman who was fatally shot by Israeli naval forces the previous day while sailing off the coast of northern Gaza.

The Israeli army claimed they opened fire on the boat for allegedly sailing past Israel’s unilaterally declared fishing zone, though local and medical sources insisted the boat was only four nautical miles off the coast, well within the fishing zone, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).

Bakr was shot in the chest at around 8:30 a.m. Monday morning while fishing with his brother Umran Majid Bakr, before Israeli forces surrounded the boat and detained him.

Hours later, Muhammad was declared dead at Israel’s Barzilai hospital in the central Israeli city of Ashkelon.

At least six other fishermen, including three members of Muhammad’s extended family, all from al-Shati refugee camp in western Gaza City, were detained in separate incidents between Sunday night and Monday morning.

Mourners carried Bakr’s body from the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City to his home in the al-Shati, calling out slogans in condemnation of the killing.

Some participants in the march fired gunshots into the air and demanded revenge for the young fisherman’s death, as they proceeded towards the “martyrs” cemetery in the camp.

Several fighters from the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, took part in the funeral.

One of Muhammad's relatives, Zakariya Bakr, highlighted that some 4,000 Palestinian fishermen in Gaza risk their lives everyday to make a living, and he denounced Israel for its continued violations aimed to deliberately threaten Gaza’s tenuous fishing sector.

Hamas said in a statement that the movement mourned Bakr’s death, who was “killed in cold blood while he was struggling to support his family in light of the dire conditions resulting from the unjust Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza.”

Muhammad was survived by his wife and his two young daughters.

According to the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Muhammad was also the cousin of the four young boys that were killed in an Israeli missile attack while playing football on the beach during Israel’s devastating assault on the small Palestinian territory in 2014.

“The killing of Muhammad Majid Bakr is the latest in an ongoing pattern of attacks by Israel on Gaza’s farming and fishing community, termed ‘economic warfare’ by Israeli officials who see this as a legitimate campaign against Gaza and its Hamas-led government,” the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign wrote in its statement.

"For the Bakr family, it adds to the terrible weight of grief they endure and the economic burden of providing for Muhammed Majid Bakr’s wife and two small daughters in an already impoverished community.”

The Israeli army regularly detains and opens fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen, shepherds, and farmers along the border areas if they approach the unilaterally declared buffer zone.

As part of Israel's blockade of the coastal enclave since 2007, Palestinian fishermen have been required to work within a limited "designated fishing zone," the exact limits of which are decided by the Israeli authorities and have historically fluctuated.

The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights has reported that since the beginning of the year, Israel has seized five fishing boats, detained 14 Palestinian fishermen, shot and injured four, and killed one other fisherman, who drowned after Israeli forces sunk his boat.

According to Ma'an documentation, Bakr is one of 22 Palestinians to have been killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of 2017, three of whom were killed in the besieged Gaza Strip.
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