The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continue to escalate its violation against Palestinian fishermen in Gaza waters. The IOF regularly opens fire against fishermen, detains them, and confiscates their fishing boats, preventing them from working.
At approximately 7:10 am on Tuesday 28 August 2012, Israeli naval vessels patrolling the Gaza sea opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off the coast north of the Al Waha resort- near the maritime border- northwest of Beit Lahiya, North Gaza district. According to Al Mezan’s field investigation, the IOF ships surrounded one Palestinian fishing boat, opened fire, and then forced two fishermen to take off their clothes and swim towards them. The IOF arrested Kamel Deeb Al Ankah, 60, and his son Mahmoud, 16, and took them to an unknown destination.
In a separate incident, at approximately 10:50 am on the same day, Israeli naval vessels patrolling the Gazan sea opened fire on about 20 Palestinian fishing boats off the coast northwest of Al Waha resort—near the maritime border—northwest of Beit Lahiya, North Gaza district. The IOF ships then chased the Palestinian boats and forced them to sail to land immediately. As a result of this attack, one boat belongs to Kamal Taqwfeq Baker, 50, was partially damaged. No casualties or injuries were reported.
The IOF practices tactics that cause more physical damages to the fishermen and their boats. In addition, Palestinian fishermen are subject to inhumane treatment when they are arrested. The IOF forces fishermen to take off their clothes and swim to Israeli vessels in cold water, then handcuffs and blindfolds them before subjecting them to interrogation. When the fishermen are released their suffering continues as they struggle to recover their boats and belongings from impoundment in Israel.
These escalating attacks come in the context of Israel’s maritime siege on the Gaza Strip, which prevents Palestinian fishermen from working, even within the Israeli-imposed “fishing zone” of three nautical miles.
The Israeli authorities are thus seeking to entrench the maritime siege. The IOF deliberately opens fire on and around Palestinian fishermen and damages their boats and engines, preventing them from working, even when the fishermen are within the Israeli-imposed “fishing zone.” According to Al Mezan’s documentation, in August the IOF carried out 11 attacks on fishermen in Gaza waters.
Al Mezan reiterates its strong condemnation of Israel’s continuous violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law in its dealings with Palestinian fishermen. Al Mezan considers Israel’s demarcation of a no-go line for Palestinian fishermen (marked by illuminated buoys), the ongoing maritime siege, and the policy of preventing fishermen from working in the areas most full of fish as part of a series of collective punishments imposed on the Gaza Strip. It is part of the general Israeli siege on Gaza, which is a form of collective punishment that is banned under international law and may amount to a war crime and a crime against humanity.
Therefore, Al Mezan reiterates its previous call on the international community to promptly intervene to uphold its moral obligations and its commitments under international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, and to ensure respect for the principles of IHL at all times. It also calls on the international community to take all necessary measures to end Israel’s gross violations of human rights, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to take immediate steps to lift the illegal siege imposed on Gaza, including by ensuring freedom to work for Palestinian fishermen.