Middle East Unrest

Gaza's Fishermen Struggle Despite Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire

Ibrahim Bakir, a fisherman from Gaza on his boat with other family members by the shore of Gaza city on Friday August 15, 2014.

Ibrahim Bakir, left, aboard his 14-foot skiff with family members on Friday. Ghazi Balkiz / NBC News

GAZA CITY, Gaza - An extension to the Israel-Hamas cease-fire is not a deal, but Gazans are not waiting for a lasting agreement to try and regain some normalcy. For fisherman Ibrahim Bakir, that means getting back on the water.

His large boat still stays docked. Israeli gunships maintain tight restrictions on how far out the fishermen can go, so firing up the big engines is not worth his while.

With nets and a crew made up of his sons, Bakir heads out on a 14-foot skiff, just beyond the sea wall to a spot crowded with fishermen just like him. "I grew up on the sea," the father of eight told NBC News on Friday. "For generations my family has fished."


Today, Bakir's hope is to catch and sell enough fish to buy food for his family. But longer term, he wants peace. "I want two states ... Israel and Palestine," he said. "That way we can live our lives, they can live theirs. I just want to live."

A five-day extension to a cautious truce appeared to be holding Friday after fresh violence broke out over the coastal strip last month. An Israeli bombing campaign and ground offensive killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed by Hamas and other militants.

This latest conflict has made "just living" nearly impossible for Baka. He said a storage unit shared by the fishermen was targeted by Israel's military.

And while the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) says Hamas used the small port to launch rockets, the fishermen believe the warehouse was hit just to destroy their livelihoods. There's no way to know for sure which version is true.

Baka lost everything in the IDF attack: nets, engines, sonar and GPS. A plaque just outside dedicates the building to the fishermen; it was a gift from the Arab states after the last warehouse was destroyed in 2012.

After an hour on the water, the nets dragged in mostly by hand, Bakir caught next to nothing. Four small fish, a crab and a handful of shrimp which he and his sons immediately ate as a snack.

"The water is shallow and this area is fished out," Bakir said. "The last time I caught a big fish was eight years ago." Back then the boats could go ten miles out and the "fish were everywhere." Today he and his sons just cast out their nets, and hope for the best.