Friday, June 15, 2012

Israeli Navy Attacks Oliva Boat and Holds another Boat in Gaza Waters


Thursday, 14 June 2012 12:00
Ref: 65/2012

On Wednesday, 13 June 20112, the Israeli Navy attacked Oliva Boat, which monitors the situation off the Gaza coast, and held a fishing boat in Rafah waters in the southern Gaza Strip with 2 fishermen on board.  The navy  released the international boat after attacking its crew with water hoses in an attempt to sink it.  They also released the 2 fishermen after several hours of detention at the Ashdod Harbor inside Israel, but confiscated their fishing boat. 

According to investigations conducted by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), at approximately 07:20 on Wednesday, 13 June 2012, the Oliva Boat sailed from Gaza Harbor towards the west.  The crew on board the boat comprised of: Rosa Schiano, an Italian citizen; Rugaya Ezzedien, a British journalist; and Captain Salah Ammar.  At approximately 08:00, the boat came within a few hundred meters of the floats placed by the Israeli Navy in Gazan waters to restrict the area of fishing for Palestinian fishermen, which cannot exceed 3 nautical miles from the seashore. 

Journalist Rugaya Ezzedien stated to PCHR that the boat’s crew started to carry out its normal activities, and that it was nearly 1.5 nautical miles to the south of an Israeli gunboat.  She added that the captain of the boat sailed southwards, nearly half a nautical mile from a Palestinian fishing boat.  She heard sounds of shooting.  At approximately 08:40, she saw the Israeli gunboat moving fast towards Oliva Boat.  When it came close to the Oliva Boat, it sailed around the boat fast and fired water hoses on the Oliva Boat. 

The crew of Oliva Boat requested the Israeli naval troops stop this attack, and stated that they were not positing any threat.  An Israeli soldier replied in Hebrew: “Shut up!”  The Israeli naval troops forced the captain of Oliva Boat to sail to the far north of Gaza waters, and then ordered him to stop.  They then forced the crew to stand on the front of the boat.  They informed members of the crew of the Oliva Boat that they would arrest them.  After making radio communications, the Israeli naval troops allowed the boat to leave.  An Israeli soldier said to the Oliva’s captain: “This is the last warning.  Next time I will not be decent, and you know what I mean.”  The Oliva Boat then sailed back to Gaza Harbor. 

On Wednesday evening, the Israeli Navy attacked a Palestinian fishing boat in the Rafah waters of the Gaza Strip.  Mohammed Aziz Bakr (26) and Mahmoud Aziz Bakr (28), both from Gaza City, were on board the boat, which was sailing nearly 2.5 nautical miles from the seashore.  Israeli naval troops arrested the 2 fishermen and pulled the fishing boat towards the Ashdod Harbor inside Israel.  The 2 fishermen were detained for several hours and were questioned.  They were released later, but their boat remains in custody. 

These latest attacks are part of a series of attacks by the Israeli Navy against Palestinian fishermen and their property in the Gaza Strip, which have notably escalated since the beginning of this year.  Since the beginning of this year, PCHR has documented 54 Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen, including 31 cases of shooting.  PCHR has also documented 12 cases of detention and pursuit of fishermen, during which 30 fishermen were arrested.  Additionally, 11 fishing boats have been held by the Israeli Navy.

It is worth noting that Oliva started its work on 20 April 2011, under the umbrella of the Spanish Civil Peace Service.  It carried out the first monitoring mission in the Gaza Strip on 8 June 2011.  This project is aimed at monitoring and documenting Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen while fishing, which constitutes a violation of international law and amounts to possible war crimes.  PCHR, Fishing and Naval Sports Association, Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Coordination Committee of Popular Resistance participate in the project, which is sponsored by dozens of local and international organizations.  The monitoring team includes international solidarity activists from Italy, Sweden, the USA and the UK. 

PCHR condemns the continuous attacks by the Israeli Navy against Palestinian fishing boats and the attack against Oliva, which monitors the human rights situation in Gaza’s sea.  PCHR calls upon the international community:

1. To intervene to stop Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, including measures aimed at preventing the work of Palestinian fishermen;
2. To act to stop the Israeli Navy’s attacks against Oliva Boat, which carries out a peaceful civil mission and aims– with absolutely legal tools – to ensure that Palestinian fishermen have the possibility of working in safe conditions; and
3. To force Israel to immediately lift the illegal siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, including the marine blockade, and allow Palestinian fishermen to work freely.

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