Sunday, December 4, 2011

PCHR Condemns Escalation in Arrest of Palestinian Fishermen in the Gaza Strip


Thursday, 01 December 2011 11:45
Ref: 121/2011

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the Israeli Navy's escalation in arrests of Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip.

Over the past week, Israeli Naval forces arrested 14 fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip. These arrests represent a continuation of the sharp increase in the arrest of Palestinian fishermen by Israel during the month of November. Since 1 January at least 32 fishermen were arrested off the coast of the Gaza Strip, 17 of whom were arrested in November.

According to PCHR investigations, at approximately 8:00 on Monday, 28 November 2011, the Israeli navy arrested two fishermen and confiscated their boat and fishing equipment. The fishermen, Mahmoud Yasser Al-Nahal (20) and Mohammed Khamis Kaloub (18), both from Gaza City, were located within the Israeli imposed 3 nautical mile limit off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip when they were approached by the navy and ordered to jump of their boat and swim towards the army vessel. Both men were taken to Ashdod Port where they were detained. Al-Nahal was released the same evening at around 23:30 while Kaloub remains in detention. The boat and equipment have not been returned.

The most recent arrests took place on Tuesday, 29 November 2011, approximately 3 nautical miles off the coast of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. According to PCHR investigations, at approximately 10:30 that morning 3 Israeli gunboats and 2 smaller vessels approached a group of 6 trawlers. The navy ordered three of the trawlers to leave the area. Soldiers then started shooting rubber bullets randomly towards the three remaining trawlers, injuring the left hand of Nihad Rajab Hissi (30), a captain on one of the boats. All fishermen aboard two of the trawlers were arrested while their boats and equipment was confiscated. All but one of the fishermen aboard the third trawler were also arrested too, leaving one man on board to return to Gaza. The Israeli navy arrested 12 fishermen in total, all from Gaza City: Osama Mohammed Hissi, 30; Mohammed Rajab Hissi, 21; Mohammed Jehad Hissi, 19; Nihad Rajab Hissi, 30; Jamal Jehad Hissi, 22); Adham Khaled Al-Habeel, 25; Ahmad Majed Al-Habeel, 25; Rami Bahjat Abu Odeh, 30; Raed Yussef Abu Odeh, 28; Saleem Amin Abu Sadeq, 48; ‘Azmi Saleem Abu Sadeq, 20; and Khaled Khadr Abu Shar, 19. The fishermen were taken to Ashdod Port, handcuffed and blindfolded. In detention they were interrogated separately before they were released at Erez checkpoint at around 2:00 the following morning. Their boats and equipment remain confiscated.

For the past two decades the fishing waters of the Gaza Strip have gradually shrunk by access restrictions imposed as a result of the Oslo agreement and in more recent years by illegal unilateral restrictions imposed by Israel. Even within the currently imposed 3 nautical mile limit, the Israeli navy regularly attacks, arrests, and sometimes even kills fishermen. These policies illegally target fishermen and their livelihoods directly with severe consequences for civilian safety and financial subsistence.

Click here to read about the personal experience of 17-year old Mohammed Bakr, who was arrested together with his uncle and cousin, while they were fishing off the Gaza coast, on 10 November 2011.

In light of the above, PCHR:

1. Condemns the continuation of attacks against and arrests of Palestinian fishermen, and considers them to be part of the larger closure policy imposed on the Gaza Strip as a form of collective punishment of the civilian population.
2. Emphasizes the gravity of targeting and threatening civilians in the pursuit of their livelihood, severely affecting the means of survival of those directly affected, in violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law;
3. Calls upon the Israeli Navy to immediately release the detained fishermen, return their confiscated boats, and to immediately and indefinitely cease all forms of attack and harassment against fishermen and to allow them to fish freely in Gaza’s waters;
4. Calls upon the international community, including the European Union and United Nations agencies, to assume their responsibility by taking immediate steps to end Israel’s violations of international law, and to ensure accountability and redress. As an urgent priority, the ongoing closure of the Gaza Strip, which includes the naval blockade, must be lifted.