The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns continued Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and expresses concerns that in the latest attacks Israeli naval troops have arrested 6 fishermen and confiscated their fishing boat and equipment.According to a statement made to PCHR by Ahmed Imsa’il al-Sherafi, 18, from al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, Israeli naval troops arrested 6 fishermen while they were fishing nearly 2 nautical miles off the Gaza seashore at about 09:30 on Sunday, 29 April 2012. The troops fired at the fishing boat and forced the fishermen to take their clothes off and swim towards an Israeli gunboat.

The soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded the fishermen and transferred them for interogation to the Israeli harbor of Ashdod. At 21:00, five were released at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing: Ahmed, Amjad, who was wounded in the right leg, Ashraf and Bilal Isma’il al-Sherafi, 18, 33, 30 and 20 years old respectively; and Yasser Mohammed al-Sherafi, 17. The sixth fisherman, al-Sadat ‘Abdul Mo’ti Hassanain, 33, an Egyptian citizen, remained in custody.

Since the beginning of 2012, Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen and their property have escalated. According to PCHR’s documentation, Israeli naval troops have launched 50 attacks against fishermen, including 15 shooting attacks, one shooting attack that left an injury, 7 pursuits, 20 incidents of detention and 7 cases of confiscation of fishing boats and equipment.

Note that the Israeli occupation authorities have imposed stricter limits on fishing in the sea off the Gaza Strip. The original limit specified in the Oslo Accords was 20 nautical miles. It was then reduced to 6 miles. Since 2009, the limit has been decreased even further to 3 nautical miles but Israeli naval troops often attack fishermen within this area. As a result of these restrictions, fishermen have lost 85% of their income.

PCHR condemns continued Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the sea off the Gaza Strip, and believes they are part of the collective punishment policies practiced against the Palestinian civilian population. These policies violate international humanitarian law and human rights law. Therefore, PCHR demands Israeli occupation authorities:

1. immediately stop attacks against Palestinian fishermen and allow them to sail and fish freely in the sea;
2. return confiscated boats to their owners; and

3. compensate victims of such attacks for the physical and material damage caused.