Palestinian labourers and foreign activists are working tirelessly to transform a large fishing boat into “Gaza’s Ark” with the aim of exporting local produce in the latest bid to break Israel’s blockade on the coastal strip.
The Ark, which is being fitted out to carry goods and more than 100 passengers, is expected to set sail for Europe when it is completed by the end of July in the latest high-profile attempt to challenge Israel’s maritime lockdown on the tiny Hamas-run territory.
If they are successful, this will be the first time goods from Gaza have been exported by sea since the signing of the 1994 Oslo Peace Accords.
Significantly, this attempt to alleviate the effects of the seven-year blockade comes from within Gaza, where locals refurbishing the 24-metre-long (78 feet) vessel want to take matters into their own hands, rather than waiting for help from the outside world.
“This will help fishermen, farmers and factory workers in Gaza to market their products,” said Abu Ammar Bakr, who was a fisherman for 40 years before turning his hand to repairing boats.
Mohammed Abu Salmi, who owns a furniture shop, was equally buoyed by the prospect of shipping products overseas.
“Export by sea will resuscitate farming and light industry in Gaza and will ease unemployment… and help to lift this oppressive blockade,” he told AFP.more