Israeli forces urged to stop deadly actions against fishermen in Gaza
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemned the recent killing of one fisherman and detention of others working off Gaza’s coast, stressing that the silence and lack of action by the international community has enabled the continuation of the blockade policies and practices that amount to collective punishment. The resulting situation being a violation of local fishermen’s right to work, and the Gazan population’s access to natural resources.
Israeli naval forces opened fire on 25 February 2018 at Palestinian fishermen who were sailing off the coast of Gaza City. The navy boat surrounded a Palestinian fishing boat that had three fishermen onboard and opened fire. Ismael Saleh Abu Reyala, 18, was hit in the head with live ammunition. Fisherman Mahmoud Adel Abu Reyala, 19, sustained injuries to his abdomen and left leg by rubber bullets. And fisherman Ahed Hasan Abu Ali, 24, sustained injuries to his left knee after also being shot with a rubber bullet. The three fishermen were arrested and brought to a detention center in Israel. Later, Israeli authorities announced the death of Ismael Abu Reyala as result of a head injury, and the release of the other two fishermen. The shooting incident occurred while the fishermen were sailing near the Gaza City port, which is well within the three-nautical mile permitted zone.
The Israeli authorities’ imposed restrictions impede local fishermen’s movement and seriously undermine their ability to earn a living. On 22 March 1996, the Israeli authorities restricted the fishing zone from 20 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles, then to six nautical miles. Nowadays, the fishing zone often fluctuates between three and nine nautical miles. The Israeli authorities have at times prevented Palestinian fishermen from accessing any amount of the sea, despite their right to 20 nautical miles, in line with the Oslo Accords.
Deeply concerned by the impact that these restrictions have on the economy and the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, Al Mezan urges members of the international community to take action to protect Palestinian civilians and to raise the dire living conditions in Gaza.
Since 2000, Al Mezan has documented 1,283 attacks on Palestinian fishermen, including 1,192 shooting incidents that led to the death of eight fishermen and to the injury of 134 fishermen. During these assaults, 656 fishermen were detained, and 209 boats were confiscated. Al Mezan also documented 111 incidents involving Israeli destruction of fishing equipment, such as nets and flashlights.
Eighty percent of fishermen in Gaza live below the poverty line. These attacks, which deprive the fishermen of their right to work and right to liberty and security of person, violates international human rights law and compounds the dire conditions of the fishing community in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli authorities’ blockade practices hinder fishermen’s access to Palestinian waters, restricts access to natural resources and undermines the community’s economic stability, stifling what would otherwise be a viable sector within the Palestinian economy.
The consequences are not limited to fishermen; reduced job opportunities reverberate throughout the entire fishing industry, including boat builders, net makers, maintenance workers, and fish traders and consumers.