Time: 2pm (+2 GMT)
At approximately 11pm on Monday, 24 June 2019, Israeli naval forces opened fire at and pumped water onto Palestinian fishermen sailing within three nautical miles off the coast of Rafah in southern Gaza Strip. The front of the boat of fisherman Emad Mansour, 29, was damaged before the naval forces confiscated his fishing net as well as those on two other boats. In his testimonial to a field worker from Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Mansour stated that Israeli forces seized his ten-piece, 555 meter-long net without giving any justification.
In a separate incident, at 8:30pm on Tuesday, 25 June 2019, Israeli naval forces chased fishermen sailing within about three nautical miles in the same area in Rafah and opened fire at them and pumped water onto their boats. One boat, carrying fishermen Hazem Al-Nada, 16, and Mohammed Al-Nahal, 25, was damaged in the attack, and both fishermen had to jump into the water before the naval forces detained Al-Nada. Al-Nahal swam back to the boat but soon lost his consciousness. At the Gaza European Hospital, he learned that he had suffered bruises in the chest, face, and lower limbs. Al-Nahal reported to Al Mezan that he lost 12 pieces of his fishing net, each piece of a length of 47 meters. At 7am on the next day, 26 June 2019, Israeli forces released Al-Nada, and he was let back into Gaza through Erez crossing in North Gaza.
In a third incident, at 10pm on Tuesday, 25 June 2019, Israeli naval forces opened fire at fishermen sailing within six nautical miles in the same area in Rafah, and they damaged the boat of Mohammed Ayesh, 23. The naval forces detained Ayesh and his brother, Mosab, 20, who also on board, both residents of Deir Al Balah. A number of fishermen could return the boat after it was damaged. At 7am on the next day, 26 June 2019, Israeli forces released both fishermen through Erez crossing.
In his testimony to Al Mezan, Ayesh shared the following: “At 10pm on Tuesday, 25 June 2019, I was with my brother Mosab, 20, on our boat, owned by my father. We were at around six nautical miles off the coast of Rafah when I saw to gunboats move towards us. When they got close to us, they started moving in circles around us and soldiers opened fire at our boat, directly hitting it. They tore our 10-piece fishing net before throwing it into the water. They ordered us to move to the front of our boat, take off our clothes, jump into the water, and swim towards their gunboats. Once we got there, Israeli soldiers tied our hands, blindfolded us, and dressed us in black clothes. The gunboats then moved for about two hours, during which they beat my brother. He was already in pain because of the tight plastic handcuffs. I heard him shout. They then dropped us off the gunboat into a room and took our personal information. In the room, we saw someone whose last name was Al-Nada. He told us he is a fisherman from Rafah. We were kept in the room overnight without investigation. At about 6am on the next day, 26 June 2019, the three of us were escorted in a jeep into Erez, where we were let off.”
Documentation by Al Mezan shows that from the start of 2019, Israeli forces have carried out 206 attacks, using live fire in 203 attacks, on fishermen. In these attacks, Israeli forces injured 15 fishermen, detained 28 others, and confiscated 11 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. For the most part, 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 continued and growing 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% 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, equipment, 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.