September 4th, 2008
On the 1st September 2008, the first day of Ramadan, several volunteers with the Free Gaza Movement and the International Solidarity Movement accompanied a small fleet of seven fishing vessels from Gaza City port.
The fishermen exercised their right to fish in Gazan territorial waters, providing them with a livelihood and providing food for the besieged people of Gaza. The fishing fleet reached approximately nine miles offshore and began trawling along the Gazan coast, well within international limits. Usually the Israeli Navy prevents Gazan fishing vessels from accessing beyond six miles and in many cases only three miles, by attacking the boats, sometimes lethally, or by arresting the fishermen. However, this day’s fishing resulted in a highly successful catch due to the ability to access richer fishing grounds further offshore.
Two Israeli Naval gunboats approached the fleet soon after leaving port and began firing “warning shots” shortly afterwards. They were aware that internationals were on some of the boats. The Israeli Navy continued shooting multiple times at the fishing vessels, one of which was fired upon at least seven times. They also deployed explosive charges in the water and attempted to de-stabilise some of the boats by creating a strong wake. Communication was established with the Israeli Navy via VHF radio, informing them that everyone onboard were unarmed civilians and requesting that the Israeli Navy stop shooting.
The volunteers will continue to join Gazan fishing expeditions on a regular basis and will monitor Israeli aggressions towards the fishermen. Video and written documentation will be posted publicly and made available to journalists. The Israeli Navy will not be informed as to when the volunteers will join the fishermen, nor the ports they will sail from, since this is not within their jurisdiction. Also no indication will be made as to which vessels have internationals onboard.