By Eva Bartlett - November 26, 2009
Just as his leg was healing from a gaping bullet wound in his calf, Mohammed Musleh broke it, setting his healing back. Although the re-break happened in April, now in November his leg is still in metal braces.
Musleh was initially wounded early in the morning of 5 October 2008 when Israeli soldiers shot at him from a distance of 100 metres.
“Doctors told me there was an entry wound of two square centimetres and an exit wound of 10-15 square centimetres. They said the shot fractured my shinbone and severed arteries in my leg,” Musleh testified to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group.
At the time of his shooting, Musleh and Ahmad al-Bardawil were fishing 2 km off the coast of Rafah, 3 km from the Egyptian border, according to their GPS device.
Musleh testified to B’Tselem that after dropping their fishing hooks, he and Bardawil “saw an Israeli battleship approach us. When the ship was about 300 meters from us, the soldiers fired into the air and into the water near our boat. Ahmad and I pulled in the line and rowed north, toward the coast, to get away from the Israeli ship and go to another place to continue fishing. Next to us was another rowboat, with two fisherman, one of them Ahmad’s cousin, Ali al-Bardawil, 20.
Our boat and the other boat rowed about 500 meters north, the Israeli ship continued to close in on us, to a distance of about 100 meters from us. It was frightening: the ship was huge and very tall, and the crew was firing in the air all the time.
I sat in the middle of the boat, rowing north. The soldiers fired into the water around the boat. Suddenly I felt pain in my left leg. I looked at my leg and saw I had been hit in the left shin. There was a hole and my leg was bleeding badly.
I stopped rowing, told Ahmad I had been wounded, and lay down on my back. Ahmad rowed to get us out of there. The firing at us continued. The soldiers didn’t say anything at all to us, at any stage.”
It took thirty minutes to row ashore, with Musleh heavily bleeding all the while.
Before his re-injury in April 2009, Musleh had hoped to return to the sea, despite the still present dangers from Israeli gunboats patrolling close to Gaza’s shore.
“I learned fishing from my father, back in 2006,” he said. “Nowadays, because of the siege, we can’t earn very much. Some days we bring home 100 shekels. Some days nothing.”
“We fish regularly in this area, and this is the first time we had any problems,” he told B’Tselem.
While Musleh may not have been targeted by Israeli soldiers before his injury, on a nearly daily basis fishermen from Rafah to Gaza’s northern waters are shot at, abducted, and have their fishing boats and equipment taken by Israeli soldiers enforcing the sea blockade, completing the full siege of the Strip. The fishing industry is a frail shadow of its former self, accompanying the reported 95% of industry in Gaza which has shut down due to the combination of siege and the Israeli massacre of Gaza.