Mohammed Hassuna says he was recently arrested by the Israeli Navy while fishing within the legal zone, and forced to strip down and swim to the gunboat.
Ramallah, West Bank
Israel's naval blockade of the waters off Gaza – part of a wider Israeli effort to seal off the tiny coastal strip controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas – is devastating a key Gazan industry and source of food: fishing.
Citing security concerns and fears of arms smuggling, Israel has progressively tightened the blockade over the past 15 years to a zone that today extends only three nautical miles (NM) from shore. Once a thriving enterprise, Gaza’s fishing industry is now on the verge of collapse. Fishermen are cut off from the heavily populated shoals, and have seen total catch and total revenue drop by rougly half in less than a decade.
Mohammed Hassuna of the southern Gaza city of Rafah was recently arrested by the Israeli Navy even though he says he was within the 3-NM zone. Most boats are fitted with GPS to ensure they stay within the zone.
"We were suddenly surrounded by gunboats and naval boats. They started shooting at us and around us. I was very scared," says Mr. Hassuna.
Hassuna says that and his crew were forced to strip down to their underwear and swim in frigid water to the navy gunboat where they were handcuffed, blindfolded, and their feet chained.