The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continue to attack Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza. The IOF regularly opens fire against fishermen, detains them, and confiscates their fishing boats, preventing them from working even when they are within the Israeli-imposed “fishing zone” of three nautical miles. This “zone” was “declared” by the IOF in March 2009. Most recently, on Sunday 11 September 2011, the IOF arrested eight fishermen from one family, including two children, in North Gaza district, after opening fire and injuring two of them, including a child. The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has repeatedly documented the IOF’s flagrant attacks against, and ill-treatment of, Palestinian fishermen in the past two months.
According to Al Mezan’s documentation, at approximately 7:00 am on Sunday 11 September 2011, Israeli naval vessels patrolling the Gaza sea opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats which were in the waters off the coastline of the As-Sudaniya area, near Jabaliya in North Gaza district. According to Al Mezan’s field investigation, the Israeli vessels then moved towards two of the fishing boats and surrounded them. Eight fishermen who were on board the boats were arrested. The IOF took the fishermen, the two children, and the boats northwards to Ashdod harbor. Al Mezan has identified their names as follows:
· Hasan Khader Hasan Baker, 53, and his sons Khader, 29, Ja’far, 27, and Mohammed, 21;
· ‘Adnan Nasser Fadel Baker, 16;
· Khalil Jawhar Baker, 21;
· Mohammed Majed Baker, 19; and
· Mohammed Suhail Baker, 17.
The fishermen are residents of Ash-Shati’ refugee camp. At approximately 6:00 pm on the same day, the IOF released the two children and Mohammed Majed Baker. It released the other detained fishermen at approximately 9:00 pm.
In his affidavit to Al Mezan, one of the fishermen stated that the IOF had opened direct fire on them while they were located west of Al Waha resort in the As-Sudaniya area. As a result, Khader Hasan Baker, 29, sustained a shrapnel wound in the left hand, Mohammed Suhail Baker, 17, sustained a shrapnel wound, in the right leg, and the boat engine was disabled. The IOF ordered the fishermen to take off their clothes, jump into the sea, and swim towards the Israeli boat. The fishermen asked the IOF to allow Hasan Khader Baker to stay on the boat as he suffers from heart disease. The IOF then cuffed the fishermen and took them to Ashdod port. He added that they were subjected to ill treatment during the IOF’s dealings with them. When the IOF finished interrogating the men, they were taken to Erez crossing and released there. The IOF still retains the two fishing boats as of the date of publication of this press release.
In this context, Al Mezan asserts that the failure of the international community to uphold its legal and moral obligations towards civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including the Gaza Strip, has encouraged Israel to continue its abuses against Palestinian fishermen in violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention. Al Mezan calls on the international community to undertake serious and effective efforts to bring to an end the IOF’s abuses against Palestinian fishermen, including the use of torture and ill treatment. It also calls on the international community to work towards lifting the Israeli restrictions imposed on the movement of fishermen, in accord with Israeli obligations under international law.