Israel Blockades Gaza Fishermen, Gas Resource

Scottish activist films Israeli navy shooting at Gaza fishermen

Claims of 14 deaths in previous incidents

According to

Billy Briggs, writing in Scotland Sunday Herald,

A Scottish human rights activist has filmed the Israeli navy firing machine guns at unarmed Palestinian fishing boats in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the Gaza Strip. The footage, taken on September 6 by Andrew Muncie, who is from the Highlands, shows an Israeli gunboat engaging fishing boats while international observers hold their arms in the air and scream for them to stop firing.

Briggs reports that:

No-one was injured in the incident, but Palestinian fishermen claim 14 colleagues have been murdered at sea by the Israeli navy since the onset of an economic blockade imposed after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Israel says patrolling these waters is a vital security measure to stop weapons being smuggled into Gaza, but by its blockade, Israel controls the Palestinians’ food, fuel, aid, and ability to fish in their own territorial waters.

The Sunday Herald article states that:

According to the United Nations, the crisis has left the number of households in Gaza below the poverty line at an unprecedented 52%.

Gaza’s fishing industry has been hit particularly hard. Under the 1993 Oslo accords, Gazan fishermen were to be allowed 20 nautical miles out to sea. According to Oxfam, fishermen are now only allowed six miles out to sea – not far enough out to reach the schools of large fish – and risk being shot or arrested if they breach this limit.

But that’s not all Israel controls with its gunboats in Gaza’s maritime territory.

The Gaza marine gas field lies 25 to 30 kilometers  off Gaza’s shore.

That’s about fifteen and a half miles from Gaza’s shore, well within Gaza’s territory according to the Oslo Accords, but well beyond the area Israel permits Gazans to actually access without threat of death at the hands of Israel’s military.

Stuart Littlewood, writing for Global Research, gathered this information about Gaza’s gas resource:

In 2005, at the time of Israel’s ‘disengagement’ from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians decided to drop plans to sell gas to Israel and talked with Egypt instead. The position changed again when Tony Blair, Israel’s ever-faithful dogsbody and now the Quartet’s special envoy to the Middle East, personally intervened on Israel’s behalf. No-one is saying how much Egypt’s EGAS was offering and there is speculation that Blair was sent in to persuade the Palestinians to accept a weaker Israeli bid.

Littlewood expressed the frustration many feel when observing Israel’s abuse of the Palestinians:

The Gaza gas field is estimated to hold 1 trillion cubic feet of gas worth some $4 billion in revenue. It would take 4 years to bring on stream. With production at economically commercial levels it is expected to last 15 years and generate $2 billion in profit, half of this for the Palestinians. Israel would take an undisclosed percentage of the product, certainly much more that the Palestinians’ requirement.

The plan is to pipe the gas from source direct to an on-shore terminal at Ashkelon in Israel. A separate pipe will run from the terminal to Gaza. BG will be the operator, with Israel providing a raft of assurances regarding uninterrupted supply to Gaza and the West Bank and uninterrupted flow of profits to the Palestinians.

Come again? BG is going to land Palestine’s one and only natural resource on Israeli territory for processing and distribution…? The same Israel that’s starving Gazans into submission, blitzing them in their prison-home and trashing their economy? The same Israel that continues to murder and imprison whomsoever it wishes and steal whatever it wants? The same Israel that has no regard for international law and human rights? The same Israel that has blocked the flow of Palestinian tax and customs revenues, humanitarian aid and hospital supplies? The same Israel that will not recognise Palestine or its democratic choices?

Have Palestinian negotiators taken leave of their senses or are they being subjected to coercive pressure, which would be grossly improper if it comes from an illegal occupier and its allies?

Nobody in the Middle East believes for a single moment that any assurance or guarantee by Israel is worth the paper it’s written on… especially in this case, where Israel mounted a challenge to Palestine’s right to own and control the gas field – and failed. So what’s going on here? Is this another brilliant idea for achieving “peace in our time” by raping Palestine of its treasures and resources?

It is not difficult to see what might happen: Israel siphons off the gas in ever-increasing quantities while keeping the Palestinians in a state of bankruptcy and unable to use their share. Alternatively they’ll provoke a ‘security’ alert and block the pipeline anytime it suits them as a collective punishment.