PCHR Condemns Israeli Escalation of Attacks against Palestinian Fishermen in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian Center for Human Rights, October 27, 2011<

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The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the Israeli Navy’s escalation of attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip that resulted in damages to fishing tools and equipment, detention of two fishermen and confiscation of their boat. Besides, the two fishermen were questioned, cruelly and degradingly treated and prevented from sailing and working freely. PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately put an end to these violations and exert pressure on the Israel to stop the policy of fighting civilians, including fishermen, in their livelihood.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR and testimonies of eyewitnesses, at approximately 03:30 on Thursday, 27 October 2011, Israeli warplanes targeted a “container”, which is used to store fishing equipment and tools. As a result, the container was completely destroyed and fishing nets and a water tank were burnt. The container belongs to Mohammed Mahmoud Abu Shammala, 56, from Khan Yunis. This attack took place when Israeli gunboats surrounded two fishermen on board of a boat, two nautical miles off Khan Yunis shore.  The Israeli naval troops opened fire at the boat and arrested Mosa Ibrahim Isma’il Abu Jayyab, 42, and Ahmed Omar Isma’il Taneera, 21, from Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, after forcing them to stop fishing, jump into the water and swim towards the Israeli gunboat. The Israeli troops confiscated the boat and fishing equipment and transported them to Ashdod Seaport in Israel, while the two fishermen have been detained so far.

The Israeli Navy has escalated attacks against the Palestinian fishermen in Gaza since the beginning of this year. These attacks have remarkably increased in terms of number and kind. Since the beginning of this year, PCHR has documented 67 attacks against fishermen, including 40 firing incidents, five of which resulted in wounding eight fishermen who were transferred to hospitals for treatment. Additionally, PCHR has documented five incidents of chasing fishermen that resulted in arresting 18 fishermen, and 14 incidents of confiscation of boats and / or damaging fishing equipment.

It should be noted that the Israeli Navy has imposed restrictions on fishermen at sea, including denying then the right to sail and fish since 2000. The Israeli Navy also minimized the area allowed for fishing in Gaza sea from 20 to 6 nautical miles in 2008; however, the Israeli naval troops keep preventing Palestinian fishermen from going beyond three nautical miles in Gaza sea since 2009, and sometimes chase them in this area as well. As a result, Palestinian fishermen are denied access to areas beyond the three miles, due to which they have lost 85% of their subsistence.

In light of the above, PCHR:

1- Condemns the recurrence of such attacks against the Palestinian fishermen, and believes that they are part of the escalation of collective punishment against civilians. Besides, they have been carried out in the context of fighting the civilians in their livelihood, which is prohibited under the international humanitarian law and international human rights law;

2- Calls upon the Israeli Navy to immediately release the detained fishermen and their boat, to stop the policy of chasing and arresting fishermen and to allow them to fish freely in Gaza sea;

3- Calls for reparations to the victims for the physical and material damages caused to fishermen and their property;

4- Calls upon the international community, including the United Nations agencies, to assume their legal and moral responsibility through an immediate and prompt intervention to stop all the Israeli violations, including the ongoing naval blockade and deprival of fishermen of over 85% of their livelihood by limiting the area allowed for fishing to three nautical miles.

This article was first published by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights on October 27, 2011.

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