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 routine. These practices form part of the unlawful closure policy that amounts to a prohibited collective punishment of more than two million protected civilians in Gaza according to international law.
The latest such incident occurred around 6:50am on Thursday, 29 July 2021, when Israeli naval forces chased and opened fire at Mohammed Abdelrazek Baker, a 50-year-old Palestinian fisherman, and his 18-year-old son, while the two were sailing off North Gaza’s coast. Baker and his son were both arrested and taken to an unknown location.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that since the beginning of the year, Israel’s navy has perpetrated 199 attacks against Palestinian fishers in Palestinian territorial waters, violating the rights of the fishers in all cases, including their rights to work, to liberty and security of person, and to live free from ill-treatment and torture. Meanwhile, Israel continues to impose punitive restrictions against this impoverished community, including by banning the import of fishing equipment into Gaza, as part of its unlawful, 14-year-old closure policy that, due to its severity and length, has devastated Gaza’s economy.
Al Mezan strongly condemns Israel’s continuous attacks on Gaza’s fishing community and demands that the Israeli authorities provide information on the whereabouts of the detained fishers and their conditions, and calls for their immediate release. The international community must ensure protection for fishers to enable them to contribute both to their individual economic growth and to the Palestinian economy. To this end, concrete steps must be taken to immediately and unconditionally lift Israel's unlawful closure of the Gaza Strip.