Thursday, December 1, 2011

40 fishermen arrested in 2011, group says

Fishermen pictured off Gaza's coast. (MaanImages/file)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel has detained 40 fishermen, injured five others and seized nine boats since the start of the year, according to findings released Wednesday by a local human rights group.

The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights said the statistics showed an increase in Israeli violations against fishermen, highlighted by an incident Tuesday in which eight fishermen were taken into custody.

In a statement, the group "condemned the violations, especially those which target fishermen's lives, belongings and, most importantly, their dignity." The group called on the international community to take action.

According to Al-Mezan, Israeli naval forces frequently shoot at fishermen and arrest them. They also ban fishermen from work and only allow them to fish within a space of three square miles, the group said.

The group documented 49 cases of shooting toward fishermen and five cases in which naval forces destroyed important gear like netting.

Mahfouz al-Kabarety, head of the Palestinian society for fishing and marine sports, said Wednesday that eight of 10 men detained Tuesday and were released. Two fishermen detained Monday were freed earlier.

On both occasions, Israel confiscated the fishermen's boats and has not returned them, the official said.

On Tuesday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said a boat "deviated from a designated fishing area" off the Gaza coast, and was instructed to reverse course by naval forces in the area. The boat failed to comply with the instructions and the crew was taken into custody, she said.

Palestine's UN observer said in October that by preventing fishermen from reaching 80 percent of available fishing waters, Israel exacerbated poverty in the Gaza Strip, in a report to the General Assembly.

Noting that most Gaza residents were dependent on food aid, the International Red Cross said in July that Gaza's fishing industry had almost disappeared due to Israeli restrictions.