The Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs has denounced the Israeli occupation authorities' policy of harassment aimed at Palestinian fishermen in Gaza. The policy has led to the Israeli navy shooting fishermen, firing missiles at their boats and kidnapping them, with the intention of tightening the siege on the Gaza Strip. The Ministry made its statement in the wake of the first kidnapping of a fisherman in 2010.
The Ministry's press officer, Riyad El-Ashkar, said that the Israelis abducted 60 fishermen from various governorates in 2009. Although some were released after their boats had been confiscated, others were taken to Ashdod Port in Israel, where they were "investigated" and, claims Mr. El-Ashkar, "pressurised into cooperating with the Israeli occupation forces and providing information about fellow Palestinians". The occupation authorities, according to Al-Ashkar, attempted to blackmail fishermen by threatening to prevent them from fishing and imprisoning them for long periods.
"The Israeli occupation authorities spare nothing in the effort to squeeze the Gaza Strip further and turn it into a big prison," he added. "It tries to control all aspects of life – as it does with its prisoners and subjects the Palestinians to all kinds of violations in its attempts to kill the spirit of resistance within them."
Israel uses different means to recruit informers, including persistent contact with Palestinians on their home and mobile telephones, blackmailing patients in need of surgery in Israeli hospitals or overseas, using Internet chat rooms and emails to influence young people in need of employment, as well as abducting fishermen and citizens near the border with Gaza. The ministry warned Palestinians not to be compromised by Israeli plots to turn the population into fifth-columnists and spies. Not only would that make Israel's task easier, but it would also destabilise Palestinian society even further and divert the people away from the struggle to liberate their land.