The two recent arrests of Palestinian fishermen exemplify the Israeli authorities’ policy of harassment and disruption to the fishing community’s work off of the Gaza coast. These practices, along with armed attacks and severely restricted fishing zones, have diminished the fishing sector from 10,000 fishermen in 2000 to just 3,800 and forced 95% of Gaza’s fishing community below the poverty line. This destruction of livelihood prevents enjoyment of Gaza’s natural resources located within the 20 nautical miles allocated to Palestine in the Oslo Accords.
According to Al Mezan’s monitoring and documentation, on Monday, 18 September 2017 at 6 am, the Israeli navy opened fire at a boat carrying two Palestinian fishermen who were fishing at approximately half a nautical mile from shore in the Al Waha area, west of Beit Lahia in North Gaza. Now a common practice, the Israeli navy boats circled the Palestinian fishing boat, clearly indicating the imminent arrest. The two fishermen—Amro Al-Sultan, 26, and Mohammed Al-Sultan, 22, both residents of Beit Lahia—were then, at gunpoint, ordered to strip off their clothes, jump into the water and swim to their arrest on the navy boats. Once on the boat, they were handcuffed and their boat was confiscated.
Since the beginning of 2017, the Israeli navy has opened fire at fishermen in 132 incidents, killing two people, and injuring nine. Another fishermen went missing after a navy boat collided with his boat and is presumed dead. In the same period, the Israeli navy detained 24 fishermen and confiscated nine fishing boats.
Al Mezan condemns the Israeli navy’s attacks on Palestinian fishermen and demands that the Israeli authorities immediately release the two detainees. Al Mezan reaffirms that Palestinian fishermen have the right to work freely, as guaranteed in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The systematic Israeli assaults on fishermen are committed in violation of international humanitarian and human rights laws. As such, Al Mezan urges the international community, especially signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to act on their moral and legal obligations and take immediate steps to protect Palestinian fishermen and to exert necessary pressure on Israel to comply with international standards.
 In 2017, Gaza’s Fishermen Syndicate reported the registration of 3,800 fishermen; however, only approximately 2,000 are active within their trade.