On 11 February 2018, Israeli forces opened fire at and arrested two Palestinian fishermen who were sailing off the coast of Beit Lahia. The incidents occurred within the context of systematic harassment, use of live fire, and arbitrary arrest of Palestinian fishermen by Israeli forces. The fishermen have a right to access 20 nautical miles of fishing grounds, but have for years been restricted by Israeli authorities to an average of six nautical miles. The two fishermen were shot at and arrested near the northern border and only one nautical mile from shore.
Al Mezan’s monitoring and documentation shows that at 6:30 am on 11 February 2018, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen who were sailing off the coast of Al Waha in Beit Lahia city, North Gaza. The navy boat surrounded a Palestinian fishing boat that had two fishermen onboard. The incident happened while the fishermen sailed near the northern border and at a distance of one nautical mile away from Beit Lahia’s beach. The Israeli forces detained two fishermen: Tareq Abdul-Bari Al Sultan, 22, and Aa’ed Nizar Al Sultan, 22, both residents of Al Salateen neighborhood of Beit Lahia.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that since the beginning of 2018 Israeli forces have opened fire at fishermen in 36 incidents, arrested 10 fishermen, injured five fishermen, and confiscated three fishing boats.
These practices, which deprive the fishermen of their right to work and right to liberty and security of person in violation of international human rights law, compound the dire conditions of the fishing community in the Gaza Strip, 80% of whom live below the poverty line. The Israeli authorities’ policy to unduly hinder Palestinian fishermen’s access to Palestinian territorial waters restricts their enjoyment of Palestine’s natural resources, in violation of international humanitarian law, and stifles what would otherwise be a viable sector within the Palestinian economy.
Al Mezan condemns the continuous attacks on the Palestinian fishing community, and stresses that the constant harassment, detention, and shooting, which results in death and injury, as well as confiscation and destruction of equipment, is part of an unlawful closure and blockade policy that amounts to a prohibited collective punishment.
Al Mezan demands the immediate release of the two fishermen in detention at the time of drafting. Al Mezan urges the members of the international community to take immediate steps to protect Palestinian civilians and to seek an end to Israel’s closure and blockade.