At approximately 11:30am on Monday, 10 December 2018, Israeli naval forces opened fire at two Palestinian fishermen who were sailing about three nautical miles off the coast of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip. The naval ships crashed into the fishermen’s boat, causing it to sink, and detained both men. The fishermen had been working well within the Israeli-enforced permitted fishing zone. The two fishermen, Naser Al-Nada, 23, and Mohammed Saidam, 18, from Al-Nadi in the Mawasi neighborhood of western Rafah City, remain in detention at the time of publication.
Documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that from the start of 2018, Israeli forces have carried out 290 attacks on fishermen—287 of them with live fire—killing two fishermen, injuring 17 fishermen, detaining 62 fishermen, confiscating 19 fishing boats, and sinking one boat. In the meantime, Israeli authorities continue to impose restrictions on the entry of fishing equipment and materials needed to repair damaged boats into Gaza within the context of the 11-year closure. Israeli authorities restrict fishermen to a zone of between three and nine nautical miles—and still target them when they are in the permitted zone.
Al Mezan condemns the violence against fishermen and stresses that the constant harassment, detention, and shooting is part of an unlawful closure policy that amounts to a prohibited collective punishment. These attacks are in violation of international human rights law and compound the dire conditions of the fishing community in the Gaza Strip, 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line. Israel’s policy to hinder fishermen’s access to Palestinian territorial waters restricts their enjoyment of Palestine’s natural resources. Preventing the fishing community from working safely and freely stifles what would otherwise be a viable sector in the Palestinian economy.
Al Mezan calls for the immediate release of the two fishermen and for compensation to be paid for the loss of their boat. Al Mezan urges members of the international community to take immediate steps to protect Palestinian civilians and to seek an end to Israel’s closure. Fishermen must be protected so that they can work and earn a living safely and with dignity.