Gaza fishermen repair their boats and nets (Photo M. Omer).

Gone Fishing

By Mohammed Omer

AS VOCATIONS go, fishing is often rated among the most dangerous, due to the risk posed by the elements. For the fishermen of Gaza, however, man escalates this threat.

Seventy-two-year-old Abu Khalil Al Rebai, nicknamed by locals the “grandfather of the beach,” reclines against the small vessel he captains, the gentle waves of the Mediterranean lapping rhythmically against the hull. Seagulls circle above, looking for scraps, and the sun ebbs toward the horizon. Reflecting, he smiles. Today has been a good day; all his crewmembers have returned unharmed and in good health. No one has been arrested, shot at or killed—yet.

As dusk descends, the shore erupts with activity as fishermen coordinate a little trick proven to attract fish. Each fisherman positions his boat or trawler as close as possible to the beach, lighting it up and creating a patchwork of hulls and sea, causing shadows to dance beneath. The mixture of shadow and light in waves resembles kelp beds, enticing the fish toward the shore with an illusion of safety. Here they are easily caught.

Unfortunately, the lights attract predators as well—the human kind.

Russian Roulette

“We challenge the Israeli bullets,” the old man states defiantly. “But we are only allowed to fish within an eight-kilometer area. Even if we don’t go beyond that, often we are still shot at.”

For this fisherman of over 30 years—one of thousands of Palestinians living in forced exile within Gaza City’s Al Shati refugee camp—housing is a struggle. The father of nine sons, Abu Rebai lives under one roof with his extended family of 36. In most of the world, fishing provides a decent, and often better, income than most other professions. In Gaza, however, due to Israeli-imposed restrictions, international sanctions, limitations on parts, fuel, and even opportunity, Gaza’s fishermen often lose rather than make money.

After getting permission to speak from Al Rebai, his captain, Adham Ahmed, 27, describes the most recent Israeli attack on their fleet.

“The last time we were shot at was just last night,” the crewman says, “less than 24 hours ago. Thank God everyone is alright.

“We have one trawler and four boats,” Ahmed adds. “Fuel can run as much as $400 per night. The problem is when we don’t catch enough fish. We end up broke or in debt.”

Even after its touted “withdrawal,” Israel maintains a near hermetic seal on Gaza. Not only does it control all entries to Gaza—including those on the border with Egypt—but also the air above and the adjacent sea, thus preventing Palestinian fishermen from seeking catches in deeper water or from entering international waters. Gaza’s fishermen thus are forced to depend on whatever may wander into the shallows close to the shore, generally smaller and fewer fish. Should a captain dare to try to fish in deeper international waters, gun barrel diplomacy either sinks his ship or severely damages it. And as Captain Al Rebai noted, even staying within the Israeli-mandated eight-kilometer limit does not guarantee safety.

“Often Israeli warships shoot at us, all of us,” Adham states, motioning with his hands, even when we are inside.”

Israeli attacks against fishermen have increased significantly over the past two to three years, he adds. Walking past the small fleet of boats, the bullet holes become obvious. Each year several fishermen die from these unprovoked attacks, either through direct hits, drowning or the fires caused by the impact of the glowing shells.

Arbitrary arrests—no reason required—present still another hazard.

Gaza Harbor

A little further up the shore, in Gaza harbor, 36-year-old Ibrahim Al Habeel frantically bails water from his listing boat.

“Last night several bullets hit our boat,” he explains between breaths. “It is the sole source of income for more than 15 families.”

Several men patch bullet holes aft, while others repair the bullet-frayed nets.

“Between the damages, lighting and fuel, last night cost us over $1,000. All we caught was a little over three kilos of fish,” Al Habeel explains in frustration, holding up a can of fish to demonstrate his point.

“I’m always in debt,” he states, shaking his head as he returns to bailing. “But I can’t just sit at home and watch my kids starve. It’s our beach and we have a right to fish it.”

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the indirect damages to Gaza’s fishing industry and economy stand at 54.5 percent—roughly $16.6 million—since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada in 2000.

Nizar Ayash, director of Gaza’s Fishing Syndicate, estimates that there are 3,000 licensed fishermen in Gaza, who provide income for 40,000 people.

“Over the last few days,” Ayesh said in early May, “the number and frequency of Israeli warships patrolling our shore have increased, especially in the southern Gaza Strip along the border with Egypt. Their aim is to harass, arrest and kill our fishermen and prevent them from going onto the beach. Last night two more were arrested. In Rafah more than 50 fishermen were arrested on 13 different boats. Although many were released later, two are still missing.”

“We condemn these crimes against our fishermen.” Ayesh added emphatically.

Mohammed Omer, winner of New America Media’s Best Youth Voice award, reports from the Gaza Strip, where he maintains the Web site <>. He can be reached at <>.

Died waiting:  Wael Abu Warda, a 27 years old Palestinian man seeking treatment in an Israeli hospital for kidney failure, died in August while waiting at the Erez Crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip.  Israel had agreed to allow Abu Warda to travel from Gaza to an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv for treatment, but when he arrived at the Erez crossing he was not allowed through, and died at the crossing, said Muawiyeh Hassanein, head of the ambulance and emergency department at Al Shifa hospital and also an official at the Palestinian Ministry of Health.


In Rafah, Israeli warplanes fired at least three rockets at the derelict control tower of Gaza's defunct airport last week.  No casualties were reported.  The once functioning international airport was shut down shortly after the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.  Since then, it has been used frequently as an Israeli Occupation Forces strategic military base during numerous IOF attacks on Rafah citizens and key infrastructure.   In Abasan, east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Israeli helicopter missile fire early Tuesday morning has killed six Palestinians and wounded twenty nine, four of whom are reportedly in critical condition.  Medical sources from Khan Younis’ Nasser Hospital reported that: "the bodies arrived at hospital torn to pieces due to a direct hit from a missile."   Many of the injured lay out of reach of Palestinian medical and rescue services due to intensive continued Israeli gunfire in the area and the firing at Palestinian ambulances by IOF tanks. The attack is still taking place in Khan Younies by tens of tanks and bulldozers invading the area.  

ATTACKS REAP A TERRIBLE HARVEST Brother and sister, Palestinian children, have died after playing in the area of a past attack - an explosion and two children died.
Mohammed Omer, photojournalist  Aug 06, 2007

OCHA`s weekly Gaza report
// Watching Gaza collapse
SUMMARY POINTS report 15-23 August

1. In the last 72 hours, 12 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the Gaza Strip, including two children.
2. Fuel supplies resumed on 22 August to the Gaza Power Station for the first time since 15 August. However, power cuts are still expected due to a continuing lack of capacity.
3. Continuing strikes by the Gaza city municipality have led to thousands of tons of solid waste piling up on street corners, posing public health concerns to those living in surrounding areas.
4. Karni, Gaza`s principal crossing point, remains closed. Basic humanitarian supplies from the private sector and humanitarian agencies are entering through Sufa and Kerem Shalom.
5. All Gazan exports have been blocked since mid-June. Raw materials essential for the Gaza businesses and economy have not been allowed to enter Gaza, preventing production of basic supplies. For example, more than 350,000 UNRWA textbooks cannot be printed because Gaza printing shops lack the requesite raw materials.
6. Paltrade reports that as of 14 August, the direct and indirect potential losses from the closures have reached an estimated at $8 million for the furniture sector, $15 million for garments and textiles and $3 million for processed food. The agriculture sector has estimated export losses at $16 million. 85% of manufacturing businesses have now temporarily shut down, with over 35,000 workers laid off. An additional 35,000 workers have been laid from other sectors including construction, trade and the service sector.

Hospital refuses order to transfer paralyzed Palestinian girl

By Reuters

A Jerusalem rehabilitation center is defying a government order to transfer a Palestinian girl paralyzed in an Israel Defense Forces attack on militants to a hospital in the West Bank.

Maria Amin, who turns six on Thursday, cannot get the care she needs in the Palestinian facility "so she won't be going anywhere" until her well-being is assured, said Shirley Meyer of the Alyn Hospital Rehabilitation Center in Jerusalem.Maria was paralyzed from the neck down when the car she was traveling in was caught in a missile attack on a leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza in May last year. Her mother, grandmother and older brother were killed.She was taken for treatment to Israel where the Defense Ministry covered her medical expenses and sponsored her father and younger brother to live with her at the hospital. She has now completed a rehabilitation program.Now the ministry says it is time for her to go. It has promised to pay for an apartment for the girl and her surviving family in the West Bank town of Ramallah, where she would be under the medical care of the Abu Raya Rehabilitation Center.But Meyer is not satisfied. "I spoke with staff from Abu Raya and they told me they are not trained or equipped to handle Maria's care," she told Reuters.Hamdi Amin, Maria's father, has appealed against the ministry order and the Supreme Court has said she cannot be transferred until a hearing is held next month.

Maria is able to move around in a wheelchair controlled by a joystick she guides with her chin, but her doctors say she will remain paralyzed from the neck down and be dependent on a respirator to help her breathe for the rest of her life."I want to stay here and build a house here. I don't want to leave," Maria said in Hebrew, which she learned during her hospital stay.At Alyn Hospital, Maria's treatments include weekly hydrotherapy sessions in a pool and computer therapy.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that moving Maria to the Palestinian hospital would allow her to reintegrate into "an environment that is natural for her". It said the Abu Raya facility "can meet all of Maria's needs".

Adi Lustigman, Amin's lawyer, said Israel was mistaken if it feared that allowing Maria to stay would encourage other Palestinians hurt in IDF strikes to seek long-term medical treatment in Israel. "Because of the uniqueness of this case, the severity of the injuries and what happened to her family, the defense department can decide to help her without worrying about setting a precedent," Lustigman said.

A Mother of Seven Prisoners

By Hekmat Bessiso

31 August, 2007


Latifah Naji Abo Homeed, 61 years old, lives in Al Am’ary Refugee Camp in the city of Ramallah – Palestine. Of her 10 children, one killed during 1994 by Israeli military and seven have been imprisoned by Israel . She longs to see them but has only their photos for comfort. She has asked to be taken to prison herself so that she can live with them.

Latifah remembers how her son Nasr loved to play with his first son; his wife delivered his second child while he was in prison. She misses Basil’s jokes, Naseir’s kindness, and Muhamed’s helpfulness. Her youngest, Jehad, was always missing his older brothers, and now he, too, is a prisoner, awaiting his own conviction. Sharif is engaged and dreams to be free and marry his bride. Islam was known for his beautiful eyes; many girls tried to win his attention by being nice to Latifah.
Latifah does not attend any weddings because she is afraid she will not be able to control her tears. She despairs that she will die before she can witness her own sons’ weddings.

Though Latifah has not given up hope that her sons and other Palestinian prisoners will be freed, she often feels that no one remembers them and no one is fighting for them. She prays, searching for the strength and patience to endure life under Occupation and the unending separation from her sons. The home Latifah shares with her husband has been demolished twice in the last ten years. She and her husband, 67 years old, have recently opened a small candy store in their home to try to earn money and fill their free time.

This is the story of countless Palestinian women, who hope for the freedom of their sons, husbands, and brothers with every breath.

Latifah Naji’s imprisoned sons:

Name Age Year imprisoned Sentence

Naseir 36 years – single 2002 7 lifers + 50 years

Nasr 34 years – married with 2 children 2002 5 lifers

Sharif 30 years – engaged 2002 4 lifers

Basil 29 years - single 2004 4 years + 4 months + $2500

Muhamed 26 years - single 2002 2 lifers + 30 years

Islam 22 years - single 2004 5 years + 6 months + $2500

Jehad 19 years - single 12/2006 Not yet

 Translated by Adib S Kawar

September 4th, 2007 | Posted in Press Releases, Bil'in Village, ISM Media Alerts

MEDIA ADVISORY: A Victory for the residents of Bil'in village

4th September 2007:

Following popular non-violent resistance through joint struggle between Palestinian, Israeli and international activists, a court decision has been made in favor of the petition by Bilin village to change the current route of the Apartheid Wall.

The court decision dictates that the military are obliged to plan and implement a new route for the wall. It has been ordered that the new path will allow for all Palestinian agricultural land to be on the Palestinian side. Furthermore, the court has ordered that the state should not take into consideration the area earmarked for Stage B of the planned expansion of Matityahu East.

During the proceedings, it was of note that the court made a rarely heard reference to military considerations and security. The court stated that in respect of security considerations, the current route of the wall runs in a topographically inferior path thus indicating that the original route had been planned with the prime consideration being the planned expansion of the settlement rather than of security.

The Supreme Court decision comes after years of continued struggle and resistance to the illegal confiscation of village lands. It is seen as a victory for the path of non-violent resistance and joint initiative from both the Palestinian and Israeli participants.

Although today's decision is seen a victory in the struggle against oppressive consequences of the Israeli Occupation and a victory for the villagers of Bilin, it is important to recognize that the route of the wall still deviates from internationally recognized armistice lines and is still in violation of international law, resolutions and advisories made within the International Court of Justice and within the UN Security Council.

For more information please go to the Israeli Supreme Court Website,
(unfortunately the decision is only in Hebrew)

Alternatively please contact:

Neta Golan: 059 8 184169
Attorney Michael Sfard: 0544 713930 alternatively 03 607 345
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