The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) continue to perpetrate systematic violations of international law vis-à-vis the rights of Palestinian fishermen. Recently, the IOF arrested five fishermen west of Gaza City and confiscated their boat. Two of them were minors. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) documented 71 violations against fishermen, leading to injury of 11 fishermen and detention of 83 in the first six months of 2016. Detained fishermen were taken into Israel and almost all of them were released a few hours later. In addition, 28 fishing boats were confiscated during the same period, whereas Israeli soldiers destroyed numerous pieces of fishing equipment such as fishing nets and lights in 11 incidents.
At approximately 9 am on Wednesday, 20 July 2016, Israeli gunboats opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats that were in the Gaza sea west of Al Sudaniya, northwest of the North Gaza district. The Israeli gunboats surrounded a small fishing boat and ordered five fishermen onboard to take off their clothes and to swim to the Israeli boat. The IOF arrested them and took them to an unknown destination and confiscated their boat. The boat is owned by Omar Mohammed Bakr, 48. Al Mezan identified the arrested fishermen as follows:
They were still in detention when this press release was published at 2:00 pm on Thursday, 21 July 2016.
Al Mezan condemns Israel’s ongoing violations against Palestinian fishermen. The IOF measures of collective punishment inflicted on the fishing community violate their right to life, physical safety, human dignity, and their right to work - ultimately pushing the fishing community into severe poverty. Al Mezan stresses that the attacks are carried out to harass and intimidate the fishermen and to information-gather. The humiliating arbitrary detention and confiscation of their boats and fishing equipment amounts to cruel and degrading treatment. Such treatment is usually followed by the release of the detained fishermen after only several hours of questioning in detention – questioning about their communities and neighbors – since there is no legal case to be pursued against them in court.
Al Mezan reaffirms that a fisherman’s right to work is an inherent human right, and that the Israeli authorities are committing systematic violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by repeatedly targeting fishermen.
Al Mezan denounces the continued silence of the international community vis-à-vis Israel's disregard for the legal obligations of States under international law, and the obligations of third States, particularly those of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, regarding the treatment of the civilian population under Israel's occupation in the occupied Palestinian territory. Al Mezan asserts that the silence of the international community has been a factor that encouraged Israel's escalation of such violations. Accordingly, Al Mezan reiterates its calls on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to ensure respect for international law and end the closure/blockade of the Gaza Strip and the serious human rights violations associated with it.