14 June 2023 |Reference 43/2023
Israeli naval forces continue perpetrating grave and systematic human rights violations against Palestinian fishermen sailing off the Gaza coast. Al Mezan documents Israel’s harassment of Gaza fishermen in Palestinian territorial waters on a regular basis, including the recurrent attacks, arbitrary arrests, seizure of fishing boats and equipment, and the use of live ammunition against them. Because of these practices, fishing off the Gaza coast has become a dangerous occupation with inherent risks to life and security. In the most recent incident, the Israeli navy arrested five fishermen and confiscated their fishing boat off the coast of North Gaza District.
According to Al Mezan’s field investigation, at approximately 00:05 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 June 2023, the Israeli navy opened fire and surrounded a large fishing boat located one and a half nautical miles off the coast of the Al-Waha area, in the North Gaza District. The boat—owned by the fisherman Omar Ibrahim al-Habil, 70—was carrying five fishermen: Hassan Fadel Bakr, 36, Saddam Majed Bakr, 32, Mohammed Omar al-Habil, 38, Jihad Mahmoud al-Habil, 24, and Zakaria Omar al-Habil, 16—all residents of Gaza City. All five fishermen were arbitrarily arrested, and their boat was confiscated by Israeli authorities. At the time of writing, Israeli authorities released four of the arrested fishermen via the Erez crossing, while Mohammed Omar al-Habil remains in Israeli custody.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that since the beginning of 2023, the Israeli navy has carried out 158 attacks against Palestinian fishermen, injuring nine, arbitrarily arresting 15, and confiscating five fishing boats. It must also be noted that Israeli authorities still ban the entry of necessary fishing materials and equipment to the Strip as part of their settler-colonial closure against Gaza.
Al Mezan calls for the immediate release of the fisherman Mohammed Omar al-Habil and the return of the confiscated fishing boat. We also strongly condemn Israel’s continuous unwarranted and illegal practices against Palestinian fishermen, which are part of Israel’s unlawful closure policy that amounts to a prohibited collective punishment under international law and represents inhumane acts that constitute the crime of apartheid under the 1973 Apartheid Convention.
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