The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns continued Israeli violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and expresses concern about the escalation of these violations, which have resulted in the arrest of four fishermen and the confiscation of a fishing boat belonging to a fisherman from the Gaza Strip.According to the findings of investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 10:00 on Monday, 22 October 2012, Israeli naval forces positioned off Al-Waha resort northwest of Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, opened fire on a group of fishermen and arrested four fishermen while they were fishing 2 nautical miles offshore.
The arrested men were identified as: Ramez Izat Baker (41), Khamis Sobhi Baker (43), Arafat Mohammad Najib Baker (20), Bayan Khamis Baker (17). In his testimony to a PCHR fieldworker, ‘Eid Mohssen ‘Eid Baker (23) from the northern Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City, who was near the scene at the time of the attack, reported the following:
‘At approximately 10:00 on Monday, 22 October 2012, I was fishing with my brothers on my father’s boat near al-Soudanya area, in the north of Gaza, nearly 2 nautical miles off the shore, while my cousins’ boat was fishing approximately 200 meters away from us, when I saw an Israeli gunboat approaching us. One of the soldiers used a speakerphone and told us to sail towards the north, however, we went south and continued fishing. 15 minutes later, the gunboat came again at great speed and suddenly they started shooting randomly at us. One of the soldiers ordered us to stop, but we kept sailing south in escape of the open fire. My cousin Ramez Baker’s boat suddenly stopped after a bullet hit the boat engine, and the Israeli gunboat approached it, to a distance of nearly 30 meters. I saw the four fishermen, Ramez, Arafat, Khamis and his son Bayan, take off their clothes, jump in the water amidst the continuous shooting, and swim towards the Israeli gunboat. The soldiers confiscated the fishermen’s boat and transported it towards the northern side.”
It should be noted that Israeli forces have recently imposed more restrictions on the work of fishermen in the Gaza Strip.
Since 2000, fishermen have been denied their right to sail and fish freely. Israeli forces reduced the area of fishing from 20 nautical miles, which was established upon in the agreements signed between Palestinians and Israel, to 6 nautical miles in 2008.
However, Israeli forces have continued to prevent fishermen from going beyond 3 nautical miles since 2009. As a result, fishermen are prevented from reaching areas beyond that distance where fish is abundant. Sometimes, Israeli forces also chase fishermen within the 3 nautical mile area.
Consequently, Palestinian fishermen have lost 85% of their source of income, because they are denied access to Palestinian waters.
PCHR condemns the recurrence of violations committed by the Israeli naval forces against Palestinian fishermen. PCHR believes that these violations are committed in the context of a policy of collective punishment against civilians, and that they are aimed at preventing civilians from meeting their subsistence needs. Such actions are prohibited under international humanitarian and international human rights law.
PCHR holds that the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip is illegal and constitutes a form of collective punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
It is also a war crime, the recurrence of which must be prevented by all parties, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.
This view is maintained in legal opinions issued by many international legal experts and UN bodies concerned with human right and international humanitarian law.
In light of the above, PCHR:
– Calls upon Israel to immediately release the arrested fishermen, return the confiscated boat to its owners, and compensate the victims for any material or psychological damages caused by the attack;
– Calls upon Israel to respect the right to freedom of movement of fishermen in the Gaza Strip, to immediately put an end to its policy of chasing and arresting Palestinian fishermen, to allow them to sail and fish freely in the Gaza Sea;
– Calls upon Israel to put an end to the illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which constitutes a form of collective punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War; and
– Calls upon the international community and the High Contacting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfil their legal and moral obligations, apply the rules of international law, and put a just end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza , Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893
PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip.