Israeli soldiers kidnapped six Palestinian fishermen in Palestinian territorial waters, on Wednesday at night, near the as-Sudaniyya area northwest of Gaza City. Local sources reported that several Israeli Navy ships surrounded three small Palestinian fishing boats before opening fire at them and ordering the fishermen to remove their clothes and swim towards the navy boats.

The kidnapped fishermen were identified as Fadel Saleh Abu Warda, Hazem Saleh Abu Warda, Mahmoud Mohammad Abu Warda, Mohammad Mata Khalla, No’man as-Saksak, and Abed Sa’dallah.

The Israeli Navy has repeatedly attacked Palestinian fishing boats, kidnapping fishermen in addition to causing serious damage to their boats or confiscating boats and other equipment. Dozens of casualties have been reported since Israel imposed its illegal siege on Gaza in June 2006.

Israel restricts the fishing area for Palestinian fishermen in Gaza to only three nautical miles. Restrictions on the fishing zone are of considerable significance to Palestinian livelihood.

Initially set at twenty nautical miles, it is presently often enforced between 1.5 – 2 nautical miles (Palestinian Center for Human Rights, PCHR: 2010). The marine ‘buffer zone’ restricts Gazan fishermen from accessing 85% of Gaza’s fishing waters, as agreed upon under the Oslo Accords.

The fishing community is targeted by Israeli forces just the communities of farmers in the ‘buffer zone’ and fishing limits are enforced with comparable aggression. Boats are shot at or rammed as near as 2nm to the Gaza coast by Israeli gunboats.

The “buffer zone” is a no-entrance zone Israel has enforced on all areas in the Gaza Strip that are close to the border.

Most of these areas are farmlands, an issue that has devastated the families that depend on farming as their only source of livelihood. Dozens of casualties were reported when the army opened fire at farmers working near the border.