By Khader Zanoun for Palestinian WAFA News Agency

The Israeli closure of the sea in the Gaza Strip increases the suffering of the fishermen who are paying a heavy price for the practices of the Israeli occupation authorities.

Israel closed the sea since Monday and prohibited fishing until further notice in a collective punishment step of the Gaza Strip’s two million population for the firing of projectiles from Gaza into Israel over the last few days.

As a result, 60,000 people in Gaza who make their living from fishing have been affected by the arbitrary Israeli measure, according to Zakaria Bakr, head of the Fishermen Union Committees in Gaza.

“Four thousand fishermen work in the sea, in addition to 1500 others whose work is directly connected to this sector, including craftsmen, drivers, merchants, fish sellers and net sellers, as well as three or four ice factories that operate for the benefit of fishermen, which stopped their production with the closure of the sea,” Bakr told WAFA.

He said the closure of the sea coincided with an important fishing season, and closure or reducing the fishing area always comes at the beginning of each fishing season. This leaves a grave impact on the fishermen and their families.

Bakr said Israel deliberately targets the fishing sector by limiting the fishing area, attacking fishermen and their boats while in the sea, and preventing the import of all fishing equipment.

Fisherman Munther Abu Amira, 30, said the occupation authorities “close the sea continuously and tightens the grip on the fishermen, and sometimes closes it while we are at the sea,” adding that the allowed fishing area is not sufficient.

Mahmoud Daifi, 30, from al-Shati refugee camp who supports a family of 11, said that fishing is his only profession from which he lives, and on the day he works he eats, but because of the closure, his living conditions have become difficult.

“I became responsible for my family members after my father, Khalil, was killed in an Israeli attack in 2008, and I have been practicing fishing for 13 years because there is no other work available in the Gaza Strip,” he explained.

He added that two days ago he was at work when an Israeli navy boat approached him, threatening him to go back and started shooting at him, which forced him to rush back and leave the fishing net in the sea.

“I and a group of fishermen go out daily from six in the evening until six in the morning of the following day. At midnight the Israeli boat comes and starts to chase us. No one remains in the sea. We leave the fishing nets in the water and flee,” said Daifi.

He pointed out that the occupation power does not want to see any Palestinian fisherman in the sea, and if he was seen, even if he is within the permitted fishing area, they come and shout at him through loudspeakers, shoot at him, and order him to leave the sea, which means he cannot continue with his work.

Daifi stressed that the fishermen need fishing tools and that not everything is available in Gaza. “I call on everyone to provide these tools for us because without them we cannot work,” he said.