GAZA CITY - It's been strangely quiet for some time at the port in Gaza. No
clanging of hooks, no sounds of creaking cranes or of thumping of nets upon
decks. Boat engines, normally puttering and spewing exhaust, lie entombed under
Of the 40,000 fishermen and others who make a living from the catch, only
about 700 are still busy, according to the Fishing Syndicate in Gaza. The boats
need oil, and Israel will not let the fishermen have it.
"Gaza's 3,000 fishermen need about 40,000 liters of fuel and 40,000 liters
of natural gas a day to operate for this season from March until the end of
May," says Nizar Ayash, director of the Fishing Syndicate. Now they get
Jamal al-Assi, 37, attempts to look busy around his idle boat. "My boat
feeds 11 families," he says. "What are we going to do? There is no
hope when there is no fuel. We can't work."
"I have been laid off work for nearly two months due to shortage of fuel,"
says Nasser al-Amodi, 49, one of Gaza's oldest fishermen. He began his career
at age nine, working alongside his father. Later he inherited the business.
Nasser, father of five, had hoped one day to pass the business on to his children.
But now, as he does his bit to maintain his gear, he is not so sure. Seventy
people, including the families of his brother and crew, have lost income as
a result of the blockade.
"If any of my equipment breaks down or is lost, I can't afford to replace
it, not only because it isn't available but because the price is double what
it would normally be."
Nasser and his family live in al-Shati refugee camp, one of Gaza's oldest
and most crowded refugee camps. An experienced fisherman, Nasser has all his
life taken up a profession considered by many the most dangerous in the world,
and for Gaza fishermen made more so by Israeli incursions and the siege.
Israel limits Palestinian fishing to six miles from shore. "But sometimes
we're not even three miles out when the Israelis chase us away," says
"We fishermen are part of the people, meaning whatever happens to Gaza's
people happens to us," he says. "But we will make our voices heard
around the world until our suffering ends."
And so fishermen suffer like the others. The scarcity of fuel has hit all
sections of Gaza society. Vehicles, including ambulances, cannot run, goods
cannot reach their destination, and those that do are priced out of reach.
The Palestinian Petrol Station Owners Association continues to demand fuel
allotment from Israeli authorities to support the basic needs of Gaza's 1.5
million people. Israeli authorities permit fuel primarily for the electricity
Despite Israel's highly publicized "withdrawal" of its illegal colonies
in 2005, Gaza remains under virtual occupation through the siege, with its
airport, borders, and seashore controlled by Israel. Israel controls also the
airspace over Gaza and the lifelines to its economy. All imports and exports,
including food, medicine, equipment, and fuel are controlled through the Nahal
International and Israeli human rights organizations have been urging Israel
to resume fuel deliveries into the Gaza Strip.
"The current situation is a threat to the health and well-being of the
population of the Gaza Strip," says a joint statement signed by eight
UN bodies. "The work of the United Nations organizations in Gaza has been
severely hampered [by the fuel shortage] affecting schools, health facilities,
and food distribution."
(Inter Press Service)