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Israeli forces arbitrarily arrest four fishermen in Palestinian territorial waters and confiscate a fishing boat

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16 August 2023 |Reference 52/2023

Israeli naval forces continue perpetrating grave and systematic human rights violations against Palestinian fishermen sailing off the Gaza coast. Al Mezan regularly documents Israel’s harassment of Gaza fishermen in Palestinian territorial waters, 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 past two days, Al Mezan has documented two separate incidents in which four Palestinian fishermen were arbitrarily arrested off the coast of Gaza's northern district.


At around 6 a.m. this morning, 16 August 2023, the Israeli navy opened fire and surrounded a fishing boat located a half nautical mile off the coast of Beit Lahiya, North Gaza District. The boat was carrying the two fishermen: Awad Fathi al-Sultan, 34, and Ghaith Eleyan Abu Oun, 25, both residents of the North Gaza District. Both were arrested and placed in Israeli custody. However, their whereabouts are not yet known at the time of writing.


One day earlier, on Tuesday, 15 August 2023, the Israeli navy opened fire and surrounded another fishing boat located one nautical mile off the coast of Beit Lahiya. The boat was carrying the two fishermen: Rafat Mohammed al-Sultan, 50, and Mohammed Rafiq al-Sultan, 22, both residents of Beit Lahiya. Both fishermen were arbitrarily arrested, and their boat was confiscated by the Israeli authorities. Although the two were released later in the day, their fishing boat remains under seizure by Israeli authorities.


Al Mezan’s documentation shows that, since the beginning of 2023, the Israeli navy has carried out 188 attacks against Palestinian fishermen, injuring 14, arbitrarily arresting 25, and confiscating eight 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 Awad Fathi al-Sultan and Ghaith Eleyan Abu Oun, as well as 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.