Al-Mina, Gaza “It really does not change anything for us,” said Palestinian fisherman Khaled al-Habil. “Since we do not have the parts we need for maintenance and repair, most boats can not even go that far.”
Khaled refers to the expansion of the fishing zone of Gaza announced last Wednesday by COGAT, an Israeli military unit responsible for civilian affairs in the occupied territories.
Among other things, the fishing zone has been extended to 15 nautical miles (28km). Although the Oslo agreements signed in the early 1990s obliges Israel to allow boats to travel up to 20 nautical miles (37km), and the maximum it allowed until last week was 12 nautical miles (22km).
The atmosphere in al-Mina, the main port of Gaza, is a good indication of political tension. Israel regularly restricts the area to the fishermen of Gaza in retaliation for Hamas decisions or anti-occupation protests. This instability is affecting the livelihoods of some 4,000 fishermen, their families and thousands of other people involved in the industry.
Khaled’s family is directly affected. Khaled, 55, inherited his father’s fishing career from the age of 10 and passed it on to his five sons.
“Fishing is all we know, but the occupation does not allow us to practice our profession in peace and comfort,” he says.
The al-Habil family owns a trailer — a large long-distance fishing boat — that has been inactive for more than two years.
According to Khaled, the trailer supports more than 20 families, but it no longer works due to an engine problem – the mechanical parts that could solve the problem can not be found in Gaza Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
‘They have the severe shortage of equipment and the prevention of their entry into the strip [Israeli authorities] must actually address, ”Khaled adds.
Currently, the al-Habil family is spread out and works on various boats belonging to fellow fishermen. When asked about their demands, all six agreed that the siege should be lifted completely to allow the fishermen of Gaza to thrive.
“Nothing will change”
The past few weeks have Palestinians protest against Israel’s crippling blockade of Gaza. In response to the tension in the building, COGAT announces not only the expansion of the fishing zone, but also three other measures.
Since last Wednesday, the water supply to Gaza has increased by another 5 million cubic meters (1.3 billion liters). from 2,000), and the Karem Abu Salem crossing, Kerem Shalom to Israelis, is completely open to the transit of equipment and goods.
Karem Abu Salem, located at the southernmost point of the border between Gaza and Israel, is the main commercial crossing of Gaza. Farmers, manufacturers and suppliers, who employ thousands of people, depend on the intersection to promote their businesses. Even with the full opening, it is Israel that determines what can cross, how much of it and when.
“Nothing seems to change, because it has the same capacity as before the war,” Rabeh Morrar, director of research at the Palestinian Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS), told Al Jazeera.
According to Morrar, the intersection has the capacity of 1,000 trucks per day, but currently only about 300 trucks circulate. The researcher said that due to the 11-day war against Gaza in May, the higher unemployment rate, coronavirus pandemic and the suspension of the money sent from Qatar, economic life in Gaza is rapidly deteriorating.
“There is no money in the hands of people to buy the goods they bought before the war,” he says.
The expert also warned that materials considered ‘dual purpose’ – which could be used for civilian or military purposes – were prohibited from entering the strip. This includes construction materials, such as cement and iron, and other raw materials.
Al bou material last week, Morrar says they are destined for the private sector and for international organizations, not for the reconstruction of Gaza.
“It’s a bit like Israel saying to Hamas, ‘OK, we do not need a war,’ but these facilities do not lead to real development,” Morrar said.
Chope for Israel
To obtain a “trade title”, you must apply to the Gaza District Chamber of Commerce, Trade, Industry and Agriculture in Palestine. A person is eligible if he has a small market, business or personal relationships that facilitate the process.
Special permission is granted if the trader wants to work in Israel. This type of document is renewed every six months.
‘The’ traders’ with the permission of Israel [to pass the Karem Abu Salem crossing] are not really traders, most are workers in the construction sector and in agriculture, ”says Morrar.
The expert says the increase in traders allowed to spread is important to the economy, but insufficient. According to him, Israel must allow at least 50,000 workers to really make a difference in the Gaza economy.
‘Israel knows this [people are not always merchants], but for this permission they do not pay social security, compensation, insurance, etc., ”Morrar explains. “It is difficult, but there is no other choice for the people of Gaza.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) sets 100 liters as the minimum requirement for daily water consumption per capita. This amount should cover basic needs, such as drinking, bathing, cooking and washing.
In Gaza, the average daily consumption per capita is only 88 liters; in Israel, by comparison, it is more than 200 liters. Only 10 percent of the water in Gaza comes from Israel. Nevertheless, the occupation and blockade had a major effect on the water crisis in the strip.
To prevent the shortage, some private wells operate in Gaza, but most are unregulated. Sellers desalinate water and sell it to households, but two-thirds of this water is already contaminated when it is delivered.
And the cost is extraordinarily high. The private market operates at 30 shekels ($ 9) per cubic meter of water. On the municipal network it costs only 1-2 shekels per cubic meter.
Gaza is receiving some relief with an additional 5 million cubic meters, but like all other measures, it should not be a solution yet.