The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) repeats its condemnation of Israel’s violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip. PCHR is concerned over the escalation of Israeli attacks directed against fishermen since the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip that was stopped following the cease-fire agreement reached between Palestinian resistance groups and the Israeli occupation forces, under Egyptian and international auspices.
Attacks against fishermen escalated despite the Israeli authorities’ announcement of allowing the fishermen to fish up to 6 nautical miles off the Gaza shore in the context of the cease-fire. Since the cease-fire agreement came about, Israeli occupation forces have arrested 29 fishermen, including 14 who were arrested on Saturday, 01 December 2012. Additionally, 9 fishing boats were confiscated and damaged, including 3 boats that were confiscated on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, 01 December 2012, the Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen and boats in Gaza’s waters while they were fishing about 3 nautical miles off the Gaza shore. As a result, an engine of a fishing boat was damaged. The Israeli naval forces chased 3 boats and arrested 14 fishermen who were on board of the boats.
In his testimony to a PCHR fieldworker, one of the fishermen, Ramez Izzat Baker, 41, from Gaza City, said:
“At 06:30 on Saturday, 01 December 2012, I went fishing with my brother Rami, 34, and 3 of my cousins: Bayan Khamis Baker, 17; Mohammed Khaled Baker, 17; and Omar Mohammed Baker, 22, off the Gaza shore. We started fishing about 3 nautical miles off the shore. At 10:00, an Israeli gunboat approached and chased us ordering us to stop. The Israeli forces started firing heavily at us. Therefore, we stopped fishing for fear of being harmed or our boats getting damaged. They ordered us to take our clothes off, jump into the water and swim towards the gunboat. We did what they ordered us to do. The Israeli forces arrested us (my brother, three cousins and me) and transported us to Ashdod seaport, where we were questioned. At 21:00, we were released, while our boats remained in custody.”
In another incident, an Israeli gunboat attacked 2 fishing boats belonging to Sabri Mohammed Baker,52, and Eid Mohsen Baker, 23, who are both fishermen and live in Gaza City. The 2 men were fishing approximately 2 nautical miles off the shore when Israeli naval forces opened fire at the boats, damaging the boat that belongs to Eid Baker. The Israeli naval forces ordered the 9 fishermen who were on board of the 2 boats to stop fishing and then arrested them. They took them to Ashdod seaport and interrogated them. The naval forces kept the two boats. At approximately 21:00, 8 fishermen were released while Emad Mohammed Baker, 33, from Gaza remained in custody.
In light of the above, PCHR:
1. Condemns the continued Israeli violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza sea, and calls upon Israel to immediately stop its policy of chasing and arresting Palestinian fishermen, and to allow them to sail and fish freely;
2. Believes that the violations committed against the Palestinian fishermen within the 6 nautical miles limit proves false the Israeli claims of permitting the fishermen to fish freely up to 6 nautical miles from the shore;
3. Calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on the protection of civilians in times of war, to intervene to immediately stop the Israeli violations against the Palestinian fishermen, and to allow them to sail and fish freely in the Gaza sea.