September 16th, 2008
Two Gazan fishing boats with international human rights workers on board were repeatedly attacked by 2 Israeli gunboats while they were trying to exercise Palestinian people’s right to fish in the Palestinian waters.
One of the Israeli gunboats was using a water cannon to throw water with high pressure while the other one was randomly firing shots of live ammunition close to the fishing boats. The attack with the water cannon was extremely dangerous. The Israeli navy was trying to throw the Palestinian fishermen and the international human rights workers in the sea. The high pressure water was damaging the old boats and people on board had to avoid not only the water but also wooden pieces, shattered glass and others objects that were flying off the deck. The Israeli navy was deliberately targeting the wheelhouses of the fishing boats, smashing the windows, making holes and nearly demolishing the walls and destroying equipment. In the same time it was preventing the captains from steering the vessels and the fishing to take place.
An Italian activist was injured. Vittorio Arrigoni was hit by flying glass when the water canon smashed the glass surrounding the wheelhouse of the boat, with shards lacerating Vittorio’s back. He was been taken to hospital immediately upon reaching shore, requiring ten stitches.
During the water cannon attacks, Palestinian fishermen were trapped behind the machines or even inside the engine room without being able to move for a long time.
During the most severe water cannon attack, a Palestinian fishing boat was trapped between the 2 Israeli gunboats without any possibility to change course. Fact that indicates that the intention of the Israeli navy wasn’t just to push the fishing boats back to the coast but to damage them and harm the people on board.
The Israeli navy persecuted the Gazan fishing boats even inside the 6 miles zone that Israel illegally and seemingly arbitrarily has imposed as the area where Palestinian fishermen are supposed to be free to fish. This zone is far to small to supply the Gaza-strip and give work to the 40.000 Gazan people once involved in the fishing industry.
The two fishing boats suffered damages, part of their equipment was thrown in the sea along with part of their fishing catch.