The eight-year illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, both on land and at sea, restricts Palestinians in their daily activities and thereby imposes difficult economic and social conditions on them. As part of its collective punishment policy, Israel often targets Palestinian fishermen at sea by opening fire on them, causing injury and death, harassing them through chases, and in many instances arresting them and confiscating their fishing vessels and equipment. Between 25 May and 4 June 2015, Al-Haq documented and monitored seven Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen.
Belal Abd Al-Aziz Bashir - Deir Al-Balah - Central Gaza
Belal, 22, has been a fisherman for almost 10 years and it is his only source of income. He has endured several incidents of harassment and attacks by the Israeli naval forces while fishing, causing huge losses each fishing trip. This has included the loss of eight fishing nets due to these incidents, costing him about $1,600.
On 27 May at approximately 3:30 am, Belal witnessed Israeli naval forces open fire and chase two fishermen on a motor boat that was about seven NM into the sea. The forces chased them, fired ammunition, and verbally abused them until they were at three NM from the shore. One of the fishermen on board was injured by bullet fire in the left arm and right thigh. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10733/2015)
Adel Sai'd Abu Rayyala - Al-Shate' refugee camp - Gaza
Adel is 43 years old and works as a fisherman along with his brother, 'Atef, 31. They support 15 family members. Five other fishermen work on the same boat with Adel and 'Atef, who provide for almost 50 family members, many of whom are children.
On Monday 1 June 2015 at approximately 5:30 am, Adel sailed north from Al-Sudaniyya beach for about three NM, with his son, Yousef, 19, and the other fishermen: Muhammad Al-Najjar, 31, his brother Rami, 26, and their cousin, Ibrahim, 14. Other boats were present in the same area. The fishermen were not able to catch any fish, so Adel decided to go further north.
At approximately 10:30 am, two Israeli naval boats sailed towards Adel's boat and started shooting in their direction. Adel immediately started sailing out of the area but the Israeli boats were able to block his boat. The soldiers on board ordered them to turn off the motor, shot at the boat and ordered the fishermen to take off their clothes at gun point. They were then ordered to jump into the sea and swim towards the Israeli boat. Yousef and the other fishermen did as ordered.
Three soldiers mounted the boat and ordered Adel to collect the net from the water. After doing so, he was handcuffed, blindfolded, and placed at the front of the boat. One of the soldiers sailed the boat for two hours towards the Ashdod port. There, he was brought down and the blindfold was removed. He saw around 20 Israeli soldiers, as he was escorted inside one of the barracks at the port. He saw his son, Yousef, inside along with the rest of the fishermen from his boat. They were all sitting blindfolded on the ground with their hands tied. Adel was blindfolded again and was seated with them for three hours.
One of the soldiers removed the blindfolds off everyone and Adel saw three policemen remove the plastic handcuffs and replace them with metal chains. The fishermen were then taken on a white bus towards the Erez crossing. There, they were thoroughly searched then taken into a room where they all sat. Half an hour later, Ibrahim Al-Najjar was released. After another half an hour, Rami Al-Najjar was taken for interrogation.
Later, Adel was questioned about his personal and family data, location of residence, and why he had crossed the permitted zone. Adel explained that he was unable to catch any fish. At approximately 11:50 pm that night, all the fishermen, except Rami who remains detained, were released. The boat was confiscated. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10734/2015)
Muhammad Ziyad Bakr - Al-Shate' refugee camp - Gaza
Muhammad, 30, is a fisherman on a boat owned by his nephew, Ziyad, 21. On Monday 25 May at approximately 5:00 am, Muhammad sailed three NM from Al-Sudaniyya beach, on the boat along with his nephews, Ziyad, Na'im, 17 and his cousin Imad, 17. There were about 40 other boats fishing in the same area.
At 9:20 am, two Israeli navy boats sailed towards the fishermen. Some of the fishing boats changed their location, fearing they would be arrested and their equipment confiscated. At the beginning, Muhammad’s boat stayed in place as they were working within the permitted zone. Muhammad only changed his location when the two Israeli boats quickly sailed towards them, and he feared they would be targeted and wounded by the Israeli forces. The two boats chased and then blocked the boat. The soldiers ordered them to turn off the motor. Muhammad refused and covered the motor with his body, fearing they would shoot at it and damage it. Indeed, the soldiers shot rubber bullets at the fishermen, injuring Muhammad in his left arm. Ziyad was also injured in his foot, while Imad was shot in his leg. Although the Israeli boats tried to sink Muhammad's boat, the four fishermen managed to escape. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10736/2015)
Al-Haq calls on Israel to lift the eight-year long closure of the Gaza Strip, and condemns the continuous targeting of Palestinian civlians, including fishermen, in the buffer zone area. Such attacks constitute a blatant violation of Israel's obligations under international law. As an Occupying Power, Israel must adhere to international human rights law and ensure the occupied population's protection. However, Israel continues to unncessarily use force against Palestinian fishermen, confiscate their fishing vessels and equipment, and arrest them. Law enforcement officials should only use firearms in incidents of self-defence or defense of others against imminet threat of death or serious injury. As per the accounts above, none of the fishermen posed any threat to the Israeli forces at the time. However, they were still targeted even when they were fishing within the permitted zone. In addition, most fishermen arrested are transferred into Israel, in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that protected persons must not be detained outside of the occupied territory.