Time: 12pm (local time)
At 6:30am on Thursday, 16 August 2018, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen sailing off the coast of Beit Lahia in the North Gaza district. The warships proceeded to seize two boats that each carried two fishermen, detaining all four and confiscating the fishing boats and equipment. Al Mezan’s documentation shows that both boats were at a distance of around half a nautical mile from the coast, well within the Israeli-enforced restricted fishing zone, when they were seized. The four detained fishermen are: Tawfiq Al-Sultan, 50, Ra’afat Al-Sultan, 48, Mohammed Zayed, 56, and Tamer Zayed, 34. The four men are residents of Beit Lahia city.
Al Mezan's documentation shows that from the start of 2018, Israeli forces have carried out 232 attacks on fishermen—231 of them with live fire—killing one fisherman, injuring 15, detaining 39, and confiscating 12 fishing boats.
Al Mezan condemns this latest attack on fishermen, 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. The Oslo Accords grant the fishermen 20 nautical miles of fishing grounds, yet the Israeli authorities restrict the fishermen to a zone between three and nine nautical miles in which to fish—still targeting them when in the permitted zone.
These attacks, 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 percent 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 demands the immediate release of the four fishermen in detention at the time of drafting. 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 and blockade.