Gaza fisher tortured by Egypt

by Hamza Abu Eltarabesh, The Electronic Intifada, 1 February 2021. There were two men named Hasan in Hala
al-Zazou’s life. 
The first Hasan was her father. He died
following a heart attack in August last year. 
The second Hasan was her cousin and
fiancé. He was shot dead the following month when the
Egyptian navy attacked the fishing vessel in which he was sailing. 
“After my father died, Hasan and I decided
that – as a mark of respect – we would postpone our wedding for a year,” she
said. “Now it has been canceled altogether.”

Posters on display in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, depict Yasser, Mahmoud and Hasan al-Zazou, three brothers attacked by Egypt. 

 Ashraf AmraAPA images

“My fiancé was working hard so that we
could have a small house to live in after we got married,” said Hala. “Is that
a crime?”

Hasan al-Zazou was near the maritime
boundary between Gaza and Egypt at the time of the attack. His brother Mahmoud
was also killed.

Another brother, Yasser, was wounded and
then arrested by the Egyptian troops. Yasser was only released on 17 January.

Speaking to The Electronic Intifada,
Yasser told of how he had been tortured during his detention.

During his interrogation, Yasser was ordered
to strip naked and was subjected to electric shocks. His interrogators
threatened him with dogs and abused him verbally.

For two weeks, Yasser was confined to a
cell so small “I could not stand up or lie down,” he said. “I was only able to

Throughout his time in Arish Central
Prison, the food was bad and the conditions were unhygienic. No measures were
introduced to protect prisoners against COVID-19.

“I cried at night because it was so cold,”
he said. “We didn’t have anything to keep us warm.”

Financial strain

While Gaza has a long fishing tradition, the al-Zazou brothers were
relatively new to the trade.

Previously, the family ran a poultry farm.

It was destroyed during the major
offensive Israel launched against Gaza in the summer of 2014. The family
incurred a loss of approximately $25,000.

After that offensive, the brothers worked
in the construction trade for a while before taking up fishing in 2018. Doing
so meant that they had to find a boat, which put the family’s finances under
further strain.

The boat in which the brothers sailed had
been bought just three weeks before the attack last September. The brothers
raised money for the boat by selling jewelry belonging to one of their sisters.

The boat cost approximately $7,000 yet the
brothers weren’t able to pay the full amount. Buying it left them in debt of
around $2,000.

“My children were trying to make money to
pay off the debts from the farm and from buying the boat and to prepare for
their futures,” said their mother Nawal.

“Their father is sick and they wanted to
help him. They don’t deserve what happened to them,” she added.


The brothers were in no way hostile to
Egypt and its people. On the contrary, Yasser was among the Palestinians
who helped rescue seven Egyptian fishers when
they got into difficulty near Deir al-Balah port in central Gaza during 2019.

Speaking while Yasser was still
imprisoned, his mother asked: “Shouldn’t that [the rescue] be enough to free

“My son was sick and exhausted for almost
a week after the rescue of the Egyptian fishermen,” she said. “His imprisonment
is not fair.”

Apart from the al-Zazou brothers, five
other fishers from Gaza have been killed by Egyptian forces since 2015.

Israel killed nine Palestinian fishers since

For the past two decades, Gaza’s fishers
have generally been allowed to operate within six to nine
nautical miles of the shore. Yet many attacks on fishers have been inside the
permitted zone.

Ten years ago there was some hope that Egypt would finally begin
treating Palestinians in Gaza with a degree of humanity. A popular uprising in
Cairo’s Tahrir Square led to the downfall of the dictator Hosni Mubarak.

A decade later and Egypt is once again led
by a dictator – Abdulfattah al-Sisi. Along with the Israeli
authorities, he is continuing to impose a blockade
on Gaza
 by both land and sea.

Everyone living in Gaza has felt the
consequences of that blockade. For the al-Zazou family, the consequences have
been especially cruel.