Sunday, 08 January 2012 14:00
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the continued Israeli violations against the Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip and is strongly concerned over the escalation of such violations. The violations resulted in the arrest of seven fishermen in two separate incidents, confiscation of two fishing boats, subjecting the fishermen to questioning and cruel and degrading treatment in addition to preventing them from sailing and fishing freely.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 10:00 on Saturday, 07 January 2012, the Israeli Navy Forces arrested four fishermen off the Rafah shore while they were practicing their work. The Israeli soldiers fired at the fishing boat and forced the fishermen to stop, take their clothes off and swim towards the Israeli gunboat while the weather was very cold. The Israeli soldiers took the four fishermen to Ashdod seaport to be questioned, after the were blindfolded and handcuffed. At approximately 00:30 on Sunday, 08 January 2012, the fishermen were released and taken to Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing. The four fishermen are: 1) Rani Sami Baker, 29; 2) Tal'at Othman Baker, 46; 3) Jad Othman Baker, 35; and 4) Mahmoud Yahya Baker, 26, all from Gaza City.
At approximately 13:47 on Thursday, 29 December 2011, the Israeli Navy Forces intercepted a fishing boat with three fishermen on board, including two brothers, who were fishing off the Khan Yunis shore. The Israeli soldiers arrested the three fishermen after they ordered them to take their clothes off, jump into the water and swim towards the Israeli gunboat. The fishermen were handcuffed and blindfolded with bags over their heads, while their boat was confiscated by the Israeli Navy Forces. The fishermen are: 1) Nabeel Ahmed al-Henawwi, 34; 2) Mahmoud Ahmed al-Henawwi, 43; and 3) Monther Mosa Sehweil, 38, all from Khan Yunis.
In his testimony to PCHR, Nabeel Ahmed Mahmoud al-Henawwi, 34, from Khan Yunis, said that he and the two other fishermen had stayed naked for 20 minutes in the water. They were shivering because of the extreme cold. He added that the Israeli Navy Forces transported them to the Israeli shores and subjected them to questioning while they were handcuffed and blindfolded. The two al-Henawwi brothers were released, but the third fisherman was transferred to Ashkelon prison.
It should be noted that the Israeli Navy has imposed restrictions on fishermen at sea, including denying them the right to sail and fish since 2000. The Israeli Navy also minimized the area allowed for fishing in Gaza waters from 20 to 6 nautical miles in 2008; however, the Israeli naval troops keep preventing Palestinian fishermen from going beyond three nautical miles in Gaza waters since 2009, and sometimes chase them in this area as well. As a result, Palestinian fishermen are denied access to areas beyond the three miles, due to which they have lost 85% of their subsistence.
In light of the above, PCHR condemns the recurrence of such attacks against the Palestinian fishermen, and believes that they are part of the escalation of collective punishment against civilians. Besides, they have been carried out in the context of attacking civilians in their livelihood, which is prohibited under the international humanitarian law and international human rights law. PCHR calls upon the Israeli Navy to:
1. Immediately stop the policy of chasing and arresting Palestinian fishermen and to allow them to sail and fish freely;
2. Calls for reparations to the victims for the physical and material damages caused to fishermen and their property; and
3. Immediately return the confiscated fishing boats to their owners and to compensate them for the material damage and psychological effects.