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Why The Mullet, Not The Israel Navy, Are To Blame For The Death Of A Gaza Fisherman


Once again there was saber-rattling, and the inbox was filled with boasts by armed organizations about their part in last week's escalation. And this is an opening that is meant to lead at least some of the readers to Fahmi Abu Riash.

 

"The Mujahideen Brigades, the military arm of the Mujahideen movement," reported that they had launched two 107-mm. rockets, "as part of the natural response to the enemy's crimes against our people and its ongoing belligerence against the Gaza Strip."

 

The National Resistance Brigades of the Democratic Front also boast of two 107-mm. missiles and even call on all the military arms "to establish a joint [operations] room to discuss the nature of the response to the crimes of the occupation."

 

The spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees said, according to one of the emails, that the blessed shelling by the committees indicates "the willingness of its heroic fighters to repulse the Zionist enemy and to respond in a painful manner."

 

And who else is responding? The Israel Defense Forces, of course. "The IDF spokesman says that forces from the armored corps and the Air Force attacked terror targets in the Gaza Strip this morning … The attacks are a response to the steep-trajectory firing at the territory of the State of Israel."

 

The firing itself was a response to several short invasions into areas of the Strip, the sweeping away of agricultural land and the killing of armed Palestinians. And some of the attacks came in response to the detonating of an explosive device that was aimed at another group of armed men – this time Israeli soldiers. Even if the IDF spokesman failed to disclose their precise location, the Palestinian reports indicate that the soldiers were inside the area of the Strip. In short, every attack is a response to a previous response/attack by the other side, and vice versa, and so on and so forth.

 

A summary of last week: Seven armed Palestinians dead, eight Palestinians wounded; a soldier and three civilians (actually migrant workers) wounded.

 

OCHA (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Activities) reports a ninth Palestinian casualty: a resident of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip who was hit by a Palestinian rocket. These are always the hidden victims, who are underreported.

 

And not only they. Fahmi Abu Riash is also erased – as though he never existed – from the balance of attack and response and from Israeli reports that have fallen hostage to the IDF.

And this was the reply of the omniscient narrator – the IDF spokesman in this case – to my question about the circumstances of the killing of Abu Riash on September 28: "In the event under discussion a number of suspicious people were identified near the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. It should be noted that approaching the fence is often exploited for planting explosive devices, gathering intelligence information and attempts to attack Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers. In light of all the circumstances of the incident, an IDF force began to implement the procedure for detaining a suspicious person and called on them to stop. When they didn't do so they were shot in the legs, which led to an injury."

 

Abu Riash of Beit Lahia was a fisherman, 22 years old, married to Fatma, father of 16-month-old Saleh. From the standard response of the IDF spokesman (in the style of "copy and paste" ) we can conclude that the "suspicious figures" were walking on foot to the border fence. Maybe they were also hiding suspicious objects in their bags. But that is not the case. When he was shot, Abu Riash was standing in the water, about five meters from the beach. That Friday morning he went out with his brother and cousin to fish for mullet, which swim in schools near the beach. That's why "we didn't go out in boats," explained the cousin, Yousef Ziad, adding a few details to the "overall circumstances." "We entered the water almost naked, we cast the nets. We were a few meters from the beach. And it's true, not far from the border, a few dozen meters from the fence that continues into the water. We started out further away (from the fence) and advanced with the movement of the fish."
 

And additional details omitted from the "overall circumstances": Israel allows the Gaza fisherman to sail only to a distance of three nautical miles (instead of 20, as specified in the Oslo Accords). The fish have the chutzpah not to take into account this restriction, for the most part. That's why the proximity of the mullet to the beach is a welcome opportunity for earning money. Every week, in a routine that the omniscient narrator ignores in his routine reports, the soldiers of the Israeli Navy fire on Palestinian fishermen (still within the three-mile limit) and sometimes detain them and transfer them for a minor interrogation at the Shin Bet security service's offices in Ashdod (only last week four were detained), in an attempt to gather intelligence information.

 

Due to the shooting, the routine of instilling fear and the restriction of maritime space, the fishing industry has shrunk greatly and many have joined the army of the unemployed (28.4 percent in the Strip, according to the World Bank ) and to families suffering from food uncertainty (52 percent according to the United Nations ).

 

The omniscient narrator did not reply to Haaretz's question regarding the location of the soldiers who killed Abu Riash. But neither did he deny the evidence that the firing came from inside the area of the Strip. Ziad said that the soldiers who fired spread out on a hill south of the border, a short distance from the fishermen, with their faces painted black and armed with long rifles and communications devices. When armed and unarmed Palestinians cross this fence they are called infiltrators. Their fate – being killed or detained – is considered legitimate and not worthy of monitoring or questioning.

 

There were eight or nine soldiers there, recalls Ziad. He and his brother got out of the water when they saw them. Did they warn them before shooting, I asked. "What they said was unclear. They shouted something, then immediately fired," said Yousef Ziad in a phone conversation. "The first bullet hit the water or the sand, but there was a very strong explosion and I thought it was a grenade."

 

Fahmi shouted, wounded. His brother Yousef Abu Riash started to carry him out of the water while shouting to the others to bring help quickly. And then the soldiers fired again, and Yousef was wounded in his hands and feet. He managed to drag Fahmi a few more meters, and then fainted. Yousef suffers from partial paralysis and the shrapnel still has not been removed from his body, as reported by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. His brother Fahmi died on the operating table: The bullets had destroyed his internal organs.
 

In the Strip they call such bullets "dum-dum" bullets (whose use is prohibited ). But military sources reassured Haaretz: "The firing was carried out in accordance with the permanent orders for opening fire in the sector, and there was no use of 'dum dum' bullets in this incident."

 

And an anonymous soldier from an elite commando group, who stands above any criticism and question, can wave his rifle barrel and boast of another hit. 

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