Free Gaza Update: Fishing Boat Under Attack

For Immediate Release
November 9, 2008

Contact: Mary Hughes, Cyprus +357 96 75 00 59
Greta Berlin, Cyprus: +357 99 08 17 67
Osama Qashoo, +44 78 33 38 16 60
Angela Godfrey Goldstein, Jerusalem: +972 547 366 393

Gaza : All day

9:15 am. From a small Palestinian fishing boat, David Schermerhorn watched as Israeli sailors aboard a large Navy Gunboat put on Hazmat suits and masks. Five minutes later, the fishermen and internationals were blasted by water from a cannon mounted atop the gunboat. The water was filthy, with an appalling chemical smell to it.

Listening to David on his satellite phone, we could hear water hitting the cabin, a harsh thumping sound. It was pouring into the cabin as the boat flooded with water that drained out through the back. The sharp staccato of machine guns in the background clearly sounded close to the boat.

Everyone aboard the fishing boat was drenched.

Nikolas Bolos, a chemical engineer from Greece and one of the DIGNITY crew members, collected samples of water in glass containers for later analysis. The three internationals on board reported that, from the moment the boat approached the Israeli-imposed six-mile limit, it came under attack by machine-gun fire and water pulsing out of the powerful cannons.

11:30 am. David, “They have been shooting at us with water cannon off and on for the past two hours. Water has been hitting the boat from only 50 feet away. Vik, the Italian international, was yelling at the Israeli gunboat that there are three internationals on board, and the Palestinians are just fishing. We’ve moved into the cabin to get away from the heavy water-cannon fire as the gunboat has been trying to break the windows with the water. I’ve moved away from them just in case they shatter.”

Early afternoon. “The gunboat is moving to the front of the fishing boat and is starting to bombard it with water again. There’s a real possibility that the boat might break apart from that angle.” David whispered from inside the wheelhouse.

5:00 pm, the boats were returning to the port. The boat David was on had brought in about 100 kilos of fish instead of the 1500 kilos they had caught a week before. Throughout the day to protect their catch from contamination by the chemical spray, the fishermen had lowered the nets back into the water. Much of the catch was lost.

“The sun is setting, and all was calm once we passed the 6-mile limit. But we were soaked with whatever was in that water, and we can only hope that none of us will get sick We’ll certainly know more tomorrow.” David said.

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