Time: 10am (local time)
At 6:30am on Monday, 11 March 2019, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Al-Waha area in the northwest Beit Lahia city in North Gaza district. The Israeli forces circulated and attacked a boat carrying two fishermen: Mohammed Al-Sultan, 28, and Hasan Zayed, 32—both residents of Beit Lahia. The two fishermen were working at a distance of about one nautical mile off the coast of Al-Waha when they were shot with plastic-coated steel bullets and then detained. Their boat and fishing equipment were also confiscated.
At 9am on 10 March 2019, the Israeli naval forces also opened fire at Palestinian fishermen sailing off in the the same area, well within the Israeli-enforced permitted fishing zone. The Israeli forces rounded a boat carrying one fisherman, Hussam Barakat, 26, a resident of Al-Shati’ refugee camp in Gaza City, and detained him.
The two attacks follow in what seems to be a pattern of escalated violations of Palestinian fishermen’s rights. On Friday, 8 March 2019, four other fishermen were attacked and detained before they had their boat confiscated. The rapid pace of various violations against fishermen is alarming. Documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that from the start of 2019, Israeli forces have carried out 63 attacks on fishermen, injuring nine fishermen and detaining 16 others, and confiscating seven 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 demands that assaulted and dispossessed fishermen 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.