Time: 10pm (+2 GMT)
At approximately 10pm on Wednesday, 20 February 2019, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen sailing off the coast of Khan Younis. The Israeli forces circulated one boat carrying two fishermen: Haytham Baker, 31, a resident of Gaza City, and his brother Awad Baker, 21. The fishermen had been working at a distance of about 11 nautical miles off the coast when the naval forces confiscated their boat and detained them.
In a separate event at 10:30pm on the same day, the Israeli naval forces opened fire at two other fishermen off the coast of Khan Younis before rounding them up, confiscating their boat and detaining both. The fishermen have been identified as: Khader Al-Sai’di, 31, and Mohammed Al-Sai’di, 27, both residents of Gaza City. According to Israeli media sources, some of these fishermen have been injured at the time of detention.
Documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that from the start of 2019, Israeli forces have carried out 35 attacks on fishermen—all of them with live fire—injuring one fisherman and detaining nine others, and confiscating five fishing boats. In the meantime, Israeli authorities continue to impose restrictions on the entry into Gaza of fishing equipment and materials needed to repair damaged boats. Israeli authorities restrict fishermen to a zone of between three and nine nautical miles—and frequently still target them regardless of whether they are working within 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 unwarranted 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 four fishermen and for the treatment of those wounded. Fishermen must be compensated for the damages to their boats and lost wages. 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.