For years, Israel’s illegal and unwarranted attacks, arbitrary arrests and restrictions on Palestinian fishers have transformed fishing off the coast of Gaza into a perilous endeavor with inherent risk to life and safety. Seizure, damage, and destruction of fishing boats are regularly reported, and use of live ammunition against fishers is recorded on almost daily basis.
According to Al Mezan’s field investigation indicate that at approximately 11:30am on Wednesday, 13 May 2020, Thabet Mohammed Abdelrazek Baker, 25-year-old resident of Gaza, received a phone call from Israeli authorities informing him that his father, Mohammed Abdelrazek Baker, 49, and another fisher, Mahmoud Aziz Radwan Baker, 31, were both arrested at sea and were held in custody at Ashkelon Central Prison.
Thabet told Al Mezan that the two fishers who were sailing off the coast of the Gaza Port on Tuesday, 12 May 2020, went missing along with their boat and fishing equipment later that day. Meanwhile, it was reported that Israeli naval forces sporadically opened fire at Palestinian fishers on Tuesday-Wednesday night.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that since the beginning of the year, the Israeli navy has carried out 125 attacks using live ammunition against Palestinian fishermen, injuring nine, and arbitrarily arresting five fishers, including a child. The individuals who were detained reported physical and verbal abuse during their interrogation. The Israeli authorities also confiscated two fishing boats during this period, including on-board fishing equipment, and damaged or destroyed boats in eight separate incidents.
Targeting the fishing sector amid the implementation of the COVID-19 safety measures, which have confined most breadwinners to their homes, means increasing the vulnerably of the fishing community and their dependents in the Gaza Strip, especially as the majority of fishers and their families live in extreme poverty.
Al Mezan condemns all forms of violence against Palestinian fishers and demands that the detained fishers and their confiscated boat be immediately released. These practices are unwarranted, illegal, and form part of the unlawful closure policy that amounts to a prohibited collective punishment under international law. The international community must ensure protection for fishers that enables them to work freely in order to contribute to their own economic growth as well as that of the Palestinian economy. To that end, tangible steps to action the removal of the 13-year closure of Gaza must be urgently formulated.