Israeli occupation forces (IOF) continue to impose a stifling maritime siege on Gaza Strip and assault Palestinian fishermen. In the first quarter of 2016, the IOF continued to impose an Access Restricted Area (ARA) of 6 nautical miles for fishing activities, while enforcing a one and a half nautical mile limit and a one nautical mile limit parallel to northern and southern borders respectively; this has denied fishermen access to fishing areas with abundance of fish.
The IOF regularly open fire towards fishermen, force them to take off their clothes, and swim in cold seawater before arresting them. In addition, their boats and equipment are either destroyed or confiscated and taken to Ashdod seaport.
In the context of promoting and protecting human rights and the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Al Mezan continues with monitoring and documentation activities to expose violations and stop them. This report has been prepared in order to pare the path to demand reparation and achieve accountability. It provides an overview over the ARA in the sea and discusses Israeli violations of IHL. It also discusses maritime borders within historical context and presents the IHL stand on the Israeli practices.
The report deals with all incidents occurring in the ARA in the sea in which all fishing activities are limited to 6 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza Strip. The report documents systematic and almost daily violations against Palestinian fishermen. It highlights measures and practices that constitute violations of human rights and IHL, particularly the practice of limiting the fishing zone and even targeting fishermen within the imposed zone. Such practices are a major component of the overall siege on the Gaza Strip.
The report, based on Al Mezan’s monitoring and documentation, shows that 29 violations against fishermen were committed, leading to injury of five fishermen and detention of 19. The detained fishermen were taken to Israel, and were released after few hours. In addition, six fishing boats were confiscated in four separate incidents. Furthermore, Israeli soldiers destroyed many fishing equipment such as fishing nets and lights.
Escalating violations against Palestinian fishermen, even within the Israeli-imposed fishing zone, raise serious doubts that such practices surpass the notion of collective punishment and morph into economic motivations. Israel is deliberately depriving Palestinian from utilizing their natural resources while exporting its own products such as fish from fishing farms to the Gaza Strip. This constitutes an additional violation of international law, which obligate the occupying state to utilize the country’s natural resources for the benefit of its residents.
Accordingly, Al Mezan reiterates its condemnation of the ongoing Israeli violations against Palestinian fishermen. Al Mezan stresses that a fisherman’s right to work is an inherent human right, and that the IOF is committing systematic violations of IHL articles and International Human Rights Law by repeatedly targeting fishermen often resulting in death, injury, and arbitrary arrest in a degrading manner, as well as depriving fishermen of their livelihoods and the right to work.
Therefore, Al Mezan calls on the international community to intervene to protect civilians and put an end to Israeli violations against them. Al Mezan reaffirms that the Gaza Strip is an inalienable and integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory, and that any measures taken by the IOF cannot change this reality. The occupying force is required to fulfill its obligations under the international law, which not only prohibits violations but also dictates the respect and realization of human rights for the civilian residents in the occupied territory.