Ceasefire opens up deeper waters for Gaza's fishermen
For the first time in years Gazans can fish farther off their coast and catch more fish, thanks to the terms of a new ceasefire with Israel.
Gaza City, Gaza
For the first time in more than three years, Gaza fisherman Mushtaq Zedan took his boat out Saturday to the deeper, more abundant waters that were off limits to him under the Israeli blockade.Skip to next paragraph
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"It was like a dream when I reached the six mile limit," says Mr. Zedan, a father of four who inherited his fishing job from his own father, of his first trip out past the three-nautical-mile limit set for Gaza fishermen by Israel more than three years ago, which kept him in shallow, over-fished waters. "Fish are always in the deep water," he says, explaining why his catch has been paltry in recent years. "But after the new procedures, we can catch more fish and life will get better again."
Today's catch included about 88 pounds of Black Seabream and other fish, far more than the usual haul in recent years. "I never had the chance to catch this much fish in the past three years. I think life will smile once again," he says.
Zedan's increased fishing territory is one of the first manifestations of the truce between Israel and Hamas last week that ended the eight-day Gaza conflict, which killed six Israelis and 166 Palestinians. Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade since the Islamist group Hamas took control of the tiny territory in 2007. Though somewhat eased in recent years, it still limited the goods that come into the territory, prohibited most exports, and limited movement in border areas, including in the waters near Gaza's shore and the farmland near the border fence with Israel.
According to Hamas, the terms of the ceasefire include Israel lifting the blockade on Gaza by opening the border crossings to movement of people and goods, both on land and at sea. In the first sign of this, in recent days fishermen and farmers have reported that they have ventured farther out to sea and closer to the border fence than previously allowed.
Hamas has claimed the terms of the Egypt-brokered ceasefire are a victory for the group, which maintains an armed wing that battled Israel in the recent conflict. And with restrictions already beginning to ease, most Gazans agree, and are keen to see the ceasefire hold.
Mukhaimar Abu Saada, professor of political science at Gaza's al-Azhar University, says it is likely the ceasefire will hold for now because it benefits all parties. "Hamas needs stability in Gaza to start the reconstruction process that Qatar is going to finance," he says. "Hamas also needs to use the Arab support it got during the Israeli offensive and translate this support on the ground" by turning from military actions to its political role, bringing stability to the people instead of war and destruction, he says.
Border still blocked
Yet one key part of the ceasefire agreement has yet to be implemented: the easing of Israel's blockade on imports and exports and the movement of people through border crossings, which Israel says is necessary for its own security. It is yet unclear how or whether Israel will follow through on what Hamas says was a term of the agreement. A Hamas delegation is in Cairo today to discuss the terms of the ceasefire, through Egyptian mediators, with the Israeli side. Opening the crossings to increased traffic is one of the items on the agenda, says Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas's political leadership, who lives in Cairo.