Egypt returns bodies of two Gaza fishermen shot by its navy

The fishermen, who were brothers, were shot off the coast near the southern border town of Rafah.

Palestinian fishermen
Egyptian officials could not immediately be reached for comment and it was unclear whether the fishing boat had crossed into Egyptian waters [File: Mohamed Saber/EPA]

The bodies of two Palestinian fishermen who Palestinian officials say were shot dead by Egyptian naval forces have been returned to the Gaza Strip, the territory’s Interior Ministry said.

The fishermen, who were brothers, were shot on Friday off the coast near the southern border town of Rafah. A third brother was wounded and was undergoing treatment in Egypt.

Hamas, the Palestinian group ruling Gaza, condemned the violence and called on Egypt to investigate the incident.

“There is no justification for the repeated violent treatment against those who seek to eke out a living for their children,” Hamas said in a statement on Saturday.

There was no immediate comment from Egyptian officials, but the Palestinian fishermen’s union in Gaza said its fishermen usually work near the Gaza-Egypt maritime border and the Egyptian navy is aware of their presence.

“Even if they happen to exceed the limit, shooting and killing them is unjustifiable,” said Nezar Ayyash, head of the union. “They could have stopped them because their boat’s engine is weak and can’t run faster than the naval boat.”

Egypt sent the bodies on Saturday evening via the Rafah crossing point, Gaza’s main gate to the outside world, on its 13km-long (8 miles) border with the Gaza Strip.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 to isolate Hamas after it seized control of the territory from the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas’s relations with Egypt have been through warm and tense phases, but Cairo has been a longtime mediator between Hamas and Israel, securing numerous ceasefire deals and unofficial truces between the two sides to halt cross-border fighting.

Ayyash said the Egyptian military has killed six Gaza fishermen in separate incidents in the past 14 years.

He said the fishermen will go on a general strike for three days to protest against the loss of their colleagues.

Source: News Agencies