Israeli forces arrest Gaza fishermen and solidarity activists

At around 9am on Tuesday, 18 November 2008, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) attacked Palestinian fishing boats off the central Gaza Strip’s shore. IOF continued to seal off the Gaza Strip for the thirteenth day in a row, allowing only a limited number of trucks loaded with commodities and food to enter the Strip. The IOF continue to ban the entry of fuel supplies, especially the industrial diesel necessary to run Gaza’s power plant, causing blackouts across the Strip.

According to Al Mezan’s sources, Israeli gunboats opened fire towards three Palestinian fishing boats. Fishermen and one foreign supporter were aboard each fishing boat. The Israeli gunboats surrounded the fishing boats and arrested Andrew Muncie, 34, an Irish supporter, and four Palestinians. In the last phone call with Vittorio Arrigoni, 33, an Italian colleague of Muncie, he said that the IOF arrested Muncie and the Palestinian fishermen and that another force boarded another fishing boat, which Darlene Wallach, 57, a US supporter, was aboard. He also said that there was another force heading towards the boat he was on before the phone call with the Center was disconnected.

The three fishing boats sailed today at around 7am from Gaza’s seaport and headed towards the south. The IOF attacked them nearly six nautical miles off al-Nusseirat shore, central Gaza Strip.

This escalation occurs as the Gaza blockade continues and fuel supplies are blocked and individuals’ movement are restricted. Foreign delegations and diplomats, journalists and members of relief agencies are denied access into the Gaza Strip. Therefore, they are prevented from taking a firsthand look at the deteriorating humanitarian conditions. On Thursday, 13 November 2008, a delegation of EU consuls was denied access into the Gaza Strip by the IOF. This step is viewed as an attempt to conceal the fact that the humanitarian conditions are exacerbating in the Gaza Strip because of the collective punishment Israel imposes on the Strip.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the continuous blockade of the Gaza Strip. It warns against the catastrophic repercussions of the siege and the ongoing banning of fishermen from practicing their work. The IOF frequently attacks the Palestinian fishermen; Israeli gunboats open fire towards them and throw sewage water at them. The arresting of fishermen and the destroying of their fishing boats are commonplace along Gaza’s shore. IOF’s arrest of foreign supporters of the Free Gaza Movement represents a serious escalation, especially as these supporters accompany Palestinian fishermen to provide them with a sort of protection from IOF’s violations.

The Center warns against the Israeli siege’s catastrophic repercussions on the humanitarian situation and calls on the international community to take urgent action to end Israel’s collective punishment of the population of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in general and the Gaza Strip in particular.

The Center once again asserts that the international community’s continuous silence encourages the IOF not only to continue its gross, systematic violations of the rules of international humanitarian law and principles of human rights, but also deal with the international community and its representatives with contempt and ignore the rules of the international humanitiarian law.

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