Israeli abuse of Gaza fishermen condemned

Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza City, May 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continue to impose a tight siege on the Gaza Strip while escalating their assaults against the Palestinian fishermen and violating their rights. Such practices continue in spite of all Israeli claims to ceasefire, under which all forms of direct attacks will be stopped and the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip will be gradually lifted.

Monitoring work undertaken by Al Mezan Center for Human Rifts shows that the siege on Gaza continues along with the worsening humanitarian conditions, human rights status and living conditions of Gaza people. Despite that nearly three months have passed since the announcement of a ceasefire, which took effect on 19 June, nothing tangible has occurred. Gaza people did not notice any remarkable improvement in their lives in terms of the provision of basic needs, drugs, medical supplies and fuel. The Strip is suffering from a choking crisis because of the lack of fuel and cooking gas, contradicting the claims of the IOF that they partially lifted the siege and re-opened the Gaza crossings.

The Center’s resources show that the IOF’s violations against fishermen continued on a semi-daily basis in spite of the announced ceasefire. The IOF fire on fishermen day and night with the aim to terrify and ban them from working and limit their activity to a narrow fishing zone. They deliberately humiliate them by forcing them to take their clothes off and swim towards their boats as well as showering them with waste water. The IOF invent methods to humiliate them.

Such violations continued since 9 October 2000 after the IOF announced they would tighten the closure and siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. Since that time, fishermen were denied access to fishing zones that were allowed before, 21 nautical miles. This number decreased to 12 nautical miles and then to six nautical miles. Monitoring work of the Center shows that the IOF do not allow fishermen to go beyond three nautical miles on the days they allows them to go fishing.

It is noteworthy that the IOF arrested four fishermen and injured another by gunfire. The IOF open fire to terrify fishermen in order to deny their access to fishing zones over the past three months. The most serious assault occurred at around 17:15 on Wednesday, 10 September 2008. An Israeli gunboat attacked a big Palestinian fishing boat (20 meters in length and eight meters in width), owned by Rajab Muhammad Abdelmenem al-Hissi. The gunboat hit the rear side of the fishing boat in mid-sea nearly six nautical miles opposite the Gaza seaport. The fishing boat was severely damaged but no injuries were reported. Field investigations show that seven fishermen of one family, the al-Hissi family, were aboard the targeted boat. They were intimidated and stayed on board, risking drowning until four Palestinian motorboats came to rescue them. The motorboats towed the damaged fishing boat to Gaza port.

Al Mezan Center strongly condemns the harsh, humiliating practices by the IOF against Palestinian fishermen. Not only do the IOF humiliate them and disrespect their human dignity, they also deprive them of their right to work. Consequently, fishermen and their families are now living below the poverty line. The Center considers such practices as serious violations of international humanitarian law, especially the collective punishment of the Palestinian civilians through the tight siege that is imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Therefore, the Center calls the international community, especially the signatory parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, to intervene immediately to halt the Israeli serious violations of the standards of human rights and international humanitarian law when dealing with civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

This press release has been edited for clarity.

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