Between 18 and 24 February, Al-Haq reported numerous attacks by the Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in the buffer zone in the Gaza sea. In particular, the Israeli military opened fire directly at and wounded Palestinian fishermen, displaying a clear intent to harm. More fishermen were arrested and had their boats confiscated. Over the past two years, Al-Haq has documented a large number of similar attacks against Palestinian fishermen and their properties (For further information, please refer to the most recent Al-Haq weekly focus on the fishermen of the Gaza Strip in addition to Al-Haq’s report Shifting Paradigms).
During the same week, Al-Haq monitored the use of disproportionate force by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. Numerous protests organised in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have been violently repressed by the Israeli forces. Additionally, the death of ‘Arafat Jaradat, as a result of torture and ill-treatment inflicted upon him while in Israeli custody, sparked protests throughout the West Bank. Numerous Palestinians protesters were injured by live fire from both Israeli forces and settlers.
‘Abdallah Mas’oud al-Ghoul– Gaza governorate
On 18 February 2013, at around 6:00 am, ‘Abdallah, 24, and his 16-year-old cousin, ‘Abd-al-Razeq Mahmoud Jarbou’, sailed about three nautical miles (NM) northwest of Gaza City and fished there for approximately four hours.
At approximately 11:00 am, two Israeli military vessels approached their boat and opened fire in their direction. The two Israeli vessels stopped next to the Palestinian boat and from a distance of approximately two metres ordered ‘Abdallah and ‘Abd al-Razeq to remove all their clothing and swim towards the Israeli boats. When ‘Abdallah and ‘Abd-al-Razeq refused, the Israeli soldiers began shooting at the boat. Several live bullets hit the boat and the two men were struck in the legs by shrapnel from the live fire. After both men fell to the deck of the boat, the two Israeli vessels departed the area.
‘Abdallah and ‘Abd-al-Razeq managed to sail back to the port in Gaza City where a Palestinian ambulance took them to al-Shifa’ hospital. At the hospital, doctors informed both men that they had bullet shrapnel in their legs. ‘Abdallah and ‘Abd-al-Razeq underwent surgery and left the hospital at around 9:00 pm. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 8375/2013)
“Muhammad Shi’hda” Khalil Sa’adallah– North Gaza governorate
On 19 February, at approximately 6:30 am, Muhammad, 57, and his relative Mahmoud Muhammad Sa’adallah, 25, sailed about one and a half NM west of Beit Lahyia, north Gaza governorate. Four hours later, two Israeli military boats approached the fishermen and eventually pulled up alongside Muhammad and Mahmoud’s boat. One of the soldiers ordered the two fishermen to stop the boat’s engine, remove their clothing and swim towards the Israeli boats. When Muhammad and Mahmoud replied that they were in an area where Palestinians were allowed to fish, the soldiers opened fire in the direction of the boat’s engine and threatened to shoot at them if they did not immediately jump into the water and swim towards them. Muhammad and Mahmoud jumped into the water and swam to one of the Israeli boats where they were given clothes and handcuffed.
The Israeli navy transferred the two fishermen to Ashdod Port, where they were kept handcuffed and blindfolded in a room for approximately one and a half hours. Afterwards, Muhammad and Mahmoud were transferred by bus to Erez checkpoint, north of the Gaza Strip where they were strip-searched and kept in a room for another hour.
Muhammad was interrogated for approximately 40 minutes by an Israeli intelligence officer who questioned him about his neighbours, who the officer alleged were affiliated to Hamas. Muhammad was also questioned about the location of Hamas’ military sites. The Israeli officer then pressured Muhammad into collaborating with the Israeli intelligence in exchange for monetary compensation, an Israeli work permit and relaxation of restrictions imposed on his fishing activities off the coast of the Gaza Strip. Muhammad firmly refused the Israeli offer and was then taken to a room where he waited with Mahmoud for 30 minutes until they were released at 6:00 pm on the same day. The Israeli soldiers confiscated the boat, which belonged to Muhammad ‘Issa Sa’adallah, a relative of Muhammad’s, and had cost approximately USD 10,000, along with Muhammad and Mahmoud’s belongings and 30 kg of fish caught that day. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 8373/2013)
Ayman ‘Adnan Kabaja – Gaza governorate
On 21 February, at approximately 9:00 am, the Israeli military attacked a group of 30 Palestinian fishing boats three NM west of the shore of Beit Lahyia. Two Israeli military vessels approached the boats while directing fire at the fishermen and their boats. Ayman, 37, Husam al-Absi, 32, and Muhammad Baker, 42, had been fishing in the area and attempted to flee but were stopped by two Israeli boats. When Ayman refused an order from the Israeli soldiers to stop the engine, the soldiers fired several bullets at the engine which stopped running. The soldiers also opened fire at the three men from a distance of several metres, hitting Ayman in his right leg and left hand with several rubber-coated metal bullets. During this time, Husam managed to restart the engine and sailed out of range of the soldiers, who stopped to pursue the fishing boats.
Once the fishermen reached the shore, Ayman was taken to hospital where he received medical treatment for the injury to his leg and was released two hours later. The boat was severely damaged and Husam could not afford the cost of repair that amounts to approximately USD 1,000. As a consequence, Husam, Ayman and Muhammad’s access to livelihood has been severely compromised. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 8374/2013)
Al-Haq firmly condemns the regular attacks by Israeli forces against Palestinian fishermen who were posing no threat to the Israeli soldiers. There is no security justification for such attacks, which were carried out with the sole intent of intimidating and injuring unarmed fishermen. The unnecessary and disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army against civilians and Israel’s failure to uphold its primary responsibility as the Occupying Power, namely the protection of the occupied civilian population, constitute serious violations of international humanitarian law that must be immediately ceased.