How Israel's naval blockade denies Gazans food, aid
A boat carrying foreign activists and three tons of medical supplies was rerouted Tuesday. Meanwhile, the fishing industry – a key source of jobs and protein – has been crippled.
Ramallah, West Bank
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After a radio message asking the small ferry to turn back was ignored, the Israeli Navy boarded the boat and redirected the vessel to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Reuters quoted a police source as saying that the activists aboard, members of the US-based Free Gaza movement, would "likely be deported."
"Yesterday evening the Israeli Navy contacted the boat while at sea clarifying that it would not be permitted to enter Gaza coastal waters because of security risks in the area, and the existing naval blockade," the Israeli military said in a statement, adding that humanitarian aid would be sent to Gaza "subject to authorization."
The naval blockade – part of a wider Israeli effort to seal off the tiny coastal strip controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas – not only prevents such shipments, it is also 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. 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 revenue drop by half in less than a decade.
"We are witnessing a huge crisis where the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen, associated laborers, and their dependents have been decimated by Israel's blockade and closure," says Erminio Sacco of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
This was restricted to 12 NM in 2002, after the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000.
This area was further limited to the current 3 NM when the Islamic movement Hamas wrested control of Gaza after an intense fight with its rival Fatah led to a collapse of a unity government headed by Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.