This Gaza Fisherman Was Gunned Down by Israeli Forces While Building an Artificial Reef

by Owen James Burke

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Fishermen on the Gaza strip who once had access to fertile grounds and steady income now earn an average of $19 for every three 24-hour shifts. Photo: Getty Images

Twenty years ago, Gaza’s fishermen were some of the wealthiest members of the Palestinian community, but in recent years as tensions escalate, Israel is responding by limiting access to premier fishing grounds, citing that the measures are necessary to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons onto Israeli shores.

Fed up with watching his community’s catch continue to dwindle, one Gaza fisherman decided to built his own artificial reef. Tawfiq Abu Riyalah, 32, piled up used tires, wood, scrap metal and anything else he could find in an area well within an imposed 75 square mile zone in an effort to attract fish into their depleted grounds. On March 7th, while “seemingly well within the area in which he and his colleagues are allowed to operate,” reports the Independent, an Israeli gunboat appeared and opened fire on the fisherman, fatally wounding him.

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Gaza’s access to nearby fishing grounds has steadily diminished throughout recent decades. Image via Dissidentvoice.org

Today, Gaza fishermen are confined to waters within just three miles of shore where they must now resort to fishing the heavily polluted, fruitless waters along their 25-mile coast–not only are they permitted to fish just 3 nautical miles out (down from 6 nautical miles last year), they can pass neither the Israeli nor Egyptian boarders to the north and south. Meanwhile, just beyond the restriction line lie reefs fertile with tuna, sardines, bream and mackerel.

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The funeral of Tawfiq Abu Riyalah, whose wife and children will now have to fend for themselves. Photo: Ezz Zanoun

The incident was the fifth such that week, during which two other fishermen were wounded.

Read more at The Independent, and in a recent Al Jazeera photo expose on life as a Gaza fisherman. — OJB

 

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