The small streets of the refugee camp in the Gazan city of Deir al-Balah were plunged into sadness on Sunday, as family and neighbours attended the funeral of two fisherman killed by the Egyptian navy for allegedly crossing territorial waters and not heeding its warning calls.
Despite Covid-19 policies imposed in the Gaza strip, a large group of people came to pay their respects for the two brothers, Mahmoud and Hassan al-Zaazou, who, with their brother Yasser, took out their new boat at dawn on Friday to make a living for themselves and their parents.
‘They did not just kill my sons, they killed us all as a family, they killed the camp and killed all the fishermen’
– Umm Nidal, fishermen’s mother
The Egyptian navy claimed it opened fire at the boat after the fishermen did not respond to a warning. Mahmoud and Hassan were killed while a wounded Yasser was detained and has yet to be returned to his family.
In the refugee camp at the west of Deir al-Balah, where the three brothers live, all the small streets and adjacent neighbours’ houses were filled with tears and sadness, and crying filled the their house where the mourners gathered.
Back at home in Deir al-Balah, where the three brothers lived, the streets and even the houses of neighbours were filled with mourners, while a grieving mother was consumed by shock and worry about Yasser’s fate.
“What did my sons do to get killed? My sons have been fishermen for a long time… and today, on their first trip on this boat, the Egyptian army kills them and their dreams”, Umm Nidal told Middle East Eye.
“They did not just kill my sons, they killed us all as a family, they killed the camp and killed all the fishermen,” she told MEE.
Umm Nidal urged the authorities to bring back her son Yasser, still held in Egypt.
Ahmed Baraka, a fisherman and a friend of the three fishermen, said that last year the brothers risked their lives to save six Egyptian fishermen who were thrown off course by bad weather towards the beach of Deir al-Balah.
“Is this the reward for what Hassan did to save the lives of the Egyptian fishermen, to be killed in cold blood?” Barak asked MEE.
Around the camp, other friends and family members expressed indignation and incredulity at what they say was an unprovoked attack from a country that is supposed to be an ally to Palestinians.
“The Egyptian government should offer an apology and compensation to our family, open a speedy investigation… and ensure that Yasser returns to us in good health,” Abdullah al-Ustaz, a relative, said.
This was not the first time that Egyptian forces have targeted Gaza fishermen. Since 2015, at least four other Palestinians have been killed for allegedly breaching territorial water.
The Palestinian Fishermen Syndicate announced the closure of Gaza’s sea for most of Sunday in protest against the attack and condemned the repeated killing of fishermen without cause.
Palestinian factions offered their condolences to the Zaazou family and denounced the deliberate killing of Palestinian fishermen who are already suffering under a 13-year Israeli siege on the strip. Israel has restricted Gaza’s fishing zone between three to nine nautical miles off the coast.
“It is a sad day for our people. It is with a lot of pain that we mourn the two young fishermen Mahmoud and Hassan al-Zaazou, martyrs of breadwinning,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohamed Shtayyeh said in a statement on Saturday.
Cairo has not issued any comment on the incident.