Mass funeral in besieged Gaza for young people drowned off the Tunisian coast

 The drowning of eight young Palestinian would-be migrants off the coast of Tunisia has reverberated across Gaza, drawing attention to the dire conditions in the territory. 

Their funerals took place in front of thousands of people with many critical of what drove the men to undertake the journey to seek new lives in Europe.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade of the Gaza Strip 15 years ago after Hamas was elected in Gaza. The blockade that Gaza faces amounts to collective punishment for all people.

The blockade has stifled the economy of Gaza, where unemployment hovers near 50 per cent.

The eight men, who were buried Sunday (Monday AEDT), all from the southern town of Khan Younis, were among about two dozen Palestinians who drowned over the past three months en route to Europe.

In the past few years, thousands of migrants from poverty-stricken or war-ravaged countries in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan have perished in the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea.

“If there was work here for those sad youths, would they have left and migrated?” she said.

He followed a path taken by thousands before him, fleeing to Turkey, one of the few countries that accept Palestinians from Gaza, on a perilous journey meant to reach Europe.

From Turkey, he went to Egypt and then to Libya. The family said it lost contact with him on October 4, holding out hopes that he had somehow made it to Belgium. But the bad news came on October 24: he was on a boat that sank off Tunisia.

According to the Geneva-based non-profit Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, around 360 people from Gaza have either died or gone missing in the Mediterranean on smuggling ships since 2014.

The bodies of the eight Palestinians on Adam’s boat were returned to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Eight ambulances carried the bodies to a hospital, where thousands of wailing people joined a mass funeral.

The procession broke down into smaller funerals as each family took their son home for a final goodbye before burial.

Another family, the al-Shaers, buried their son, 21-year-old Mohammed. But his younger brother Maher, 20, is still missing. They were on the same doomed boat.

Meanwhile, a 19-year-old has been charged in the UK with abetting illegal immigration after four migrants died trying to cross the Channel into Britain last week when the inflatable boat they were using started to sink.

One of those who died in Wednesday’s tragedy was a teenager, regional authorities said. Thirty-nine migrants, including 12 children, were rescued by a British fishing boat.

Police said a suspect who they named as Ibrahima Bah, of no fixed address, had been charged with facilitating attempted illegal entry into Britain and was due in court on Monday.