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NGOs call for end to Israeli military attacks on Gaza fishermen

Jerusalem (QNN) – Several Palestinian and Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have called on the Israeli authorities to put an end to attacks on Gaza fishermen.

In recent weeks, the Israeli navy increasingly used violent enforcement measures at sea, with incidents of fire on fishermen off the coast of Gaza rising by 70 percent in April compared to January-March 2020, according to the NGOs. The use of live fire threatens fishermen’s lives and causes severe damage to boats and equipment, they said.

Human rights organizations Gisha, Adalah and Gaza-based Al Mezan sent an urgent letter to Israel’s attorney general and military advocate general, demanding they order the military put an immediate end to the harassment of fishermen and investigate past incidents.

The violence with which the military enforces the maritime closure on Gaza as a matter of routine includes measures such as unrestrained use of live fire, submerging of boats, degrading treatment of fishermen, seizure of boats and damage to equipment.

According to Al Mezan, 105 incidents of Israeli navy fire at Gaza fishing boats were recorded in the first four months of 2020; six fishermen were wounded, and seven others were arrested, including a minor. In addition, seven boats sustained severe damage, large quantities of fishing equipment were destroyed, and one boat was seized.

These practices by the Israeli navy have continued this month as well. In the morning hours of 8 May 2020, for example, fishermen reported Israeli naval fire toward two fishing boats. Rubber bullets hit one fisherman in the head and another in the hand; the engines of two boats were destroyed by live ammunition. Later that day, the Israeli navy used powerful water cannons on several boats, putting the boats and their owners at risk and injuring one fisherman.

In the letter sent on behalf of the three organizations, Gisha lawyer Muna Haddad stated that “the policy of using potentially lethal force against fishermen and causing severe, irreversible harm to their property is illegal and disproportionate.”

According to fishermen’s testimonies, the Israeli navy uses violent measures even when fishing vessels are located within the permitted fishing zone. Haddad emphasized that “in any case, sailing outside of the fishing zone does not, in itself, pose a security threat that justifies use of force ostensibly intended to enforce security restrictions.”

Israel’s restrictions on access to the fishing zone it enforces in Gaza’s sea space, the frequent changes it makes to its demarcation, and the violent enforcement methods it employs thwart the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen in Gaza, undermining what was once an important sector in the Strip’s economy.

Israel’s actions at sea are just one, but a stark example of the control Israel still wields over the lives of Gaza’s residents. This control comes with responsibilities, including an obligation to enable residents of the Gaza Strip to earn a living and live in dignity, without being forced to risk their lives and property and without infringement on their fundamental rights, said the NGOs.

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