For nine years a slow and painful discussion has been going on. The people of Gaza, oppressed and frustrated (over 70% of the population of the Gaza Strip are UN-registered refugees), have an offshore gasfield in their territorial waters estimated to be worth at least $4 billion.
In 1994, the Gaza–Jericho first agreement (withdraw of the Israeli Defence Force from Gaza) allocated the territorial waters of the coast of Gaza to an extent of twenty nautical miles as territory of the Palestinian Authority. However, the other side of the agreement was that Israel retain full security control over the area.
In 2000, British Gas, whose product I burn to keep warm here, discovered the Gaza Marine gasfield. British Gas received its licence to explore the Gazan coast not from its owners in accord with the 1994 agreement, but from the Israeli government. It looks like the Israeli government had timed things so that the gas exploration licence would be granted before formally handing the waters over to the PA, to keep Israel ‘in charge’ of the resources. Since the gas discovery, IDF gunboats (made in Britain) have been active in the waters, destroying Gazan fishing industry by forcing fishing boats to return home (as reported by Amnesty International: 15 fishermen killed, over 200 injured). It is clear that Israel considers that the gas is theirs. Continue reading