28 December 2011
For Immediate Release
At 10:55 am, an Israeli naval warship attacked the international
observers and Palestinian captain of the Civil Peace Service Gaza
(CPSGAZA) boat Oliva, injuring its captain in an apparent attempt to
The two international observers, both Italian citizens, are available for media questions or interviews.
"The Israeli navy passed near us and the fishermen, and started to go
around us, creating waves," said Rosa Schiano, one of the international
observers. "The fishermen escaped, but we couldn't because of a problem
with our engine. We couldn't move, and they went around us very quickly.
The Israelis saw that we couldn't move, and that the captain was trying
to fix the engine, but they didn't stop. We told them, 'Please stop!
Please stop!' But they didn't."
When the warship was two meters away from the Oliva, one of the waves it
had created nearly capsized the small boat, filling it with water and
causing the Palestinian captain to fall out, injuring his left leg.
"Their intentions were to do something very bad," said international
observer Daniela Riva. "Coming so close to us was very dangerous, and
they obviously knew that."
After more than twenty minutes, the warship retreated, and the Oliva was
rescued by a small Palestinian fishing boat, or hasaka, which threw it a
line and towed it toward the shore.
Photos are available for free use with attribution to Rosa Schiano, Civil Peace Service Gaza (CPSGAZA):
http://bit.ly/CPSGAZAphotos. Additional photos and video will be available upon request: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The incident followed similar attacks on the Oliva during previous missions. Video footage is available:
Restrictions on the fishing zone are of considerable significance to
Palestinian livelihood. Initially 20 nautical miles, it is presently
often enforced between 1.5 - 2 nautical miles (PCHR: 2010). The marine
'buffer zone' restricts Gazan fishermen from accessing 85% of Gaza's
fishing waters agreed to by Oslo.
During the Oslo Accords, specifically under the Gaza-Jericho Agreement
of 1994, representatives of Palestine agreed to 20 nautical miles for
fishing access. In 2002 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan empowered
Catherine Bertini to negotiate with Israel on key issues regarding the
humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and a 12
nautical mile fishing limit was agreed upon. In June 2006, following the
capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit near the crossing of Kerem
Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom), the navy imposed a complete sea blockade for
several months. When the complete blockade was finally lifted,
Palestinian fishermen found that a 6 nautical mile limit was being
enforced. When Hamas gained political control of the Gaza Strip, the
limit was reduced to 3 nautical miles. During the massive assault on the
Strip in 2008-2009, a complete blockade was again declared. After
Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli army began imposing a 1.5 - 2 nautical
miles (PCHR: 2010).
The fishing community is often similarly targeted as the farmers in the
'buffer zone' and the fishing limit is enforced with comparable
aggression, with boats shot at or rammed as near as 2nm to the Gazan
coast by Israeli gunboats.
The fishermen have been devastated, directly affecting an estimated
65,000 people and reducing the catch by 90%. The coastal areas are now
grossly over-fished and 2/3 of fishermen have left the industry since
2000 (PCHR: 2009). Recent statistics of the General Union of Fishing
Workers indicate that the direct losses since the second Intifada in
September 2000 were estimated at a million dollars and the indirect
losses were estimated at 13.25 million dollars during the same period.
The 2009 fishing catch amounted to a total of 1,525 metric tones, only
53 percent of the amount during 2008 (2,845 metric tones) and 41 percent
of the amount in 1999 (3,650 metric tones), when the fishermen of Gaza
could still fish up to ten nautical miles from the coast. Current
figures indicate that during 2010 the decline in the fishing catch
continues. This has caused an absurd arrangement to become standard
practice. The fisherman sail out not to fish, but to buy fish off of
Egyptian boats and then sell this fish in Gaza. According to the
Fishermen's Union, a monthly average of 105 tons of fish has been
entering Gaza through the tunnels since the beginning of 2010 (PCHR
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). "The Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip." Oct. 2010.
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. "A report on: Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Fishers in the Gaza Strip." August 2009.