Last week, the Israeli military opened fire on a group of more than 30 Palestinian fishermen near the border in the north of the Gaza governorate. One fisherman died and another was injured in the attack.
The movement restrictions imposed in the buffer zone of the Gaza Strip have severely impacted upon the local economy and in particular the fishing sector. A ‘no-go area’ at sea prohibits fishermen from moving beyond three nautical miles (NM) from the coast while denying access to a 1.5 NM area along the northern maritime boundary with Israel and 1NM-wide area on the southern boundary with Egypt.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affair (UN OCHA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), between 2000 and 2011 the number of fishermen decreased from 10,000 to 3,100. Furthermore, nearly 90 per cent of fishermen in the Gaza Strip are considered poor or very poor, with a monthly income below 190 USD. Due to such restrictions, fishermen frequently risk their lives in order to approach the buffer zone at sea to earn a livelihood.
Yousef Abu-Rayyash (20 years old)
On 28 September 2012, shortly after 5:00 am, Yousef Abu-Rayyash and his brother Fahmy (23 years old) were fishing along the shore of Beit Lahyia, north of Gaza governorate. The two brothers, along with another 30 fishermen, were casting nets a few metres from the shore.
At approximately 9:30 am, Yousef was fishing with his brother roughly 20 metres from the border when he saw several Israeli soldiers standing on a dune on the opposite side of the border who were shouting in Hebrew. The soldiers then opened fire on the group of fishermen, who immediately ran for cover behind the dunes. Yousef and Fahmy were the closest men to the border and when they ran from the water, Fahmy was shot in his left thigh. The soldiers continued shooting when Yousef stopped to help his brother and he was hit in the left hand.
When Fahmy managed to get up and tried to move away, he was hit by a second bullet in the left side of the abdomen and fell once more to the ground. At that point, Yousef started shouting at the soldiers that his brother was injured and bleeding. In the meantime, Zaher Yousef al-Sultan (21 years old), one of the fishermen who had been working by the shore and had witnessed the soldiers repeatedly firing at the two brothers, began moving towards Yousef and Fahmy. He was waving a piece of white fabric in his hand and screaming at the soldiers to stop shooting. When the soldiers eventually stopped shooting, Zaher approached the two brothers and he found Fahmy to be bleeding profusely.
Shortly afterwards, Fahmy was transferred by ambulance to the Kamal ‘Adwan Hospital. At around 1:30 pm, Yousef received medical treatment for the gunshot wound to his hand and before being discharged was informed that he would require surgery in a few days. Fahmy’s condition was more severe and he remained in hospital. At around 3:00 pm, he was brought to the operating room due to the gravity of the injuries sustained. Later that night, at approximately 10:00 pm, Fahmy was declared dead as a consequence of the gunshot wounds. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 7742/2012)
Earlier that same week, Turkiyya Faleh al-Husnat (50 years old), of al-Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, was doing the laundry on her rooftop when she was shot by Israeli soldiers during a incursion in the area. The bullet punctured her right hand and she was left with bullet fragments in her arm. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 7740/2012)
In August 2012, Al-Haq documented an incident in which an 18-year old Palestinian farmer was shot twice by the Israeli military while gathering crops 600 metres from the border.
Al-Haq firmly condemns the unnecessary and disproportionate use of lethal force leading to Fahmy’s death and the regular wounding of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. In addition, Al-Haq reiterates that the closure of the Gaza Strip amounts to collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population in blatant violation of international humanitarian law.
For further information on the buffer zone and the Gaza Strip, please refer to Al-Haq’s Report: Shifting Paradigms - Israel’s Enforcement of the Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip and Al-Haq’s Virtual Field Visit and Interactive Map of the Buffer Zone.
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