PCHR Launches New Report: Israeli Blockade and Attacks on Fishermen in the Gaza Strip
Date: 14 July 2020
On 14 July 2020, PCHR released its latest report of its series on the “Israeli Blockade and Atacks on Fishermen in the Gaza Strip,” from 01 May 2019 – 30 June 2020. It should be noted that PCHR has documented Israeli attacks on fishermen and its naval blockade on the Gaza Sea in reports since 2000.
The report addresses the Israeli naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, and highlights the suffering endured by fishermen in their daily work, manifested in daily assaults that aim at pestering them and preventing them from working freely and undermining their livelihoods. The report examins the impact of these practices on the fishing sector, which countinues to be extremely challeneged in contributing effectively to the revival of the local Palestinian economy as opposed to its history as a flourishing economic sector.
The report documents the reality of fishermen’s work after the Israeli occupation authorities partially extended the fishing aarea in April 2019 (6-15 nautical miles), stressing that the expansion in fishing area did not have a noticeable impact on fishermen’s work, especially in terms of an increase in fish production. This is largely attributed to the continued Israeli naval forces’ attacks on fishermen within the allowed fishing area and the fact that the areas where fishing was allowed already are poor in fish. Furthermore, Israeli authorities limited the fishing area to 3 nautical miles and shut the sea completely more than 20 times during the reporting period. Additionally, Israeli authorities continued to ban the import of quipment and tools necessary for fishemren into the Gaza Strip.
During the reporting period (01 May 2019 – 30 June 2020), PCHR documented (133) attacks against Palestinian fishermen while sailing and fishing, resulted in (18) fishermen were wounded, (8) fishing boats and equipment were damaged, (15) fishermen were arrested, and (8) fishing boats and nets were confiscated. This affirms that the Israeli expansion of the permitted fishing area did not prevent its forces from persecuting and chasing fishermen and shooting them with live ammunition, posing grave danger to their lives.
Israeli authorities continue to impose restrictions on the entry of fishing equipment and tools required for fishermen, including boat engines, gear (transmission), gauze and dozens of vital materials for boats maintenance, including fiberglass, steel cables and spare parts, under the pretext that they are “dual-use” materials, according to the Israeli classification, meaning that they are “intended for civilian use and are also suitable for military use.” The ban on the entry of spare parts required for building and maintaining boats led to the closure of dozens of workshops; only a limited number of which have continued to maintain fishing boats, whereas manufacturing new boats is completely suspended due to the lack of material .
The report indicates that restricting the permitted fishing area prevented fishermen from sailing and fishing freely, as half of the fishermen (2,000) practice their work intermittently, once a week or a month, because the income from their work does not cover their operational costs. This undermined the livelihoods of 4,160 fishermen and 700 workers in professions associated with the fishing sector i.e. the main providers for their families (a total of 27,700 persons). Consequently, those fishermen and workers are effectively unable to provide their families’ basic needs, such as food, medicine, clothing, and education.
The report concluded that the continued Israeli naval attacks against Palestinian fishermen and the fishing sector violate the rules of international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention. Additionally, the systematic restrictions on fishermen’s freedom of movement constitute a form of collective punishment, prohibited under the international humanitarian law (IHL) as it compromises their means of livelihood.
In its recommendations, the report called upon the International Community, especially the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, to intervene immediately and pressurize Israeli authorities to end its blockade policy, expand the fishing area and cease all violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and allow them to sail and fish freely within their regional waters. PCHR also called upon International and humanitarian organizations to provide financial, material and technical aid for the fishing sector.