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Occupied Lives: There was no reason for my son’s death


Fahmi’s wife, son, brother and mother at their home in Salatin area


On 28 September
2012, Israel’s forces shot and killed Fahmi Abu Riash (22), a Palestinian
fisherman, and wounded his brother Youssef (19), while they and a group of
other fishermen were pulling out their fishing nets a few meters from the shore
in the northern Gaza Strip.  According to
investigations conducted by the Palestinian
Center for Human Rights (PCHR), an
Israeli infantry unit crossed the northwestern border between the Gaza Strip
and Israel, and moved nearly
20 meters
into Palestinian territory, along the beach area of the northwestern town of Beit Lahia.  Israeli soldiers took position behind a hill
at the beach, facing a number of Palestinian fishermen who were fishing a few meters
offshore, and opened fire at the fishermen. 
The majority of the fishermen were able to flee.  However, two fishermen, who were located
nearly 15 meters
away from the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, were unable to escape.  According to fishermen present in the area,
Israeli soldiers fired directly at the two fishermen, wounding them.  One of the men, Fahmi Abu Riash, died of his
wounds later on the same day. 


Fahmi’s brother,
Youssef, was also shot.  He gives the
following account: “We left the house at around 5am and went down to the sea.  I was with my 2 brothers, Fahmi and Ahmed,
and 2 of my cousins.  We were not out on
a boat that day.  We just had our nets
and we were fishing near the shore.  It
was at around 9.30am, when I heard someone screaming.  I then realized that it was my brother, Fahmi,
and he had been shot in his left leg.  I
remember seeing about 10 soldiers standing on an elevated piece of land and
there were many more mobilized behind them. 
I rushed to help Fahmi and started shouting for help from the other
fishermen on the shore.  I carried my
brother, and then they shot at us again. 
They were firing from behind and I also got hit on my arms and legs.  I carried Fahmi, and then walked about 30 meters before I fainted.”


The fishermen
on the shore called an ambulance and the 2 brothers were rushed to Kamal Adwan
.  Youssef had sustained several injuries but
was in a stable condition.  He recalls: “When
I finally came to, I was in hospital.  I
was treated for my wounds and discharged. I had been shot in the left arm and I
developed partial paralysis as a result of damage to my nervous system.  I also had shrapnel lodged in my arms and
legs.  Some of the shrapnel was removed
but some of it requires surgery.” 
Youssef’s brother Fahmi, however, died of his injuries some hours later.


As she
remembers the incident, Mariam recounts what had become a tradition for the
family.  Most days, from 11am until 6pm, she used to accompany
them to the beach and make them lunch as they worked: “On that day, I did not
go with them.  I was at home making them
lunch when the incident happened.  My
sister came and told me that Fahmi and Youssef had been taken to Kamal Adwan
and I rushed
there.  I never expected this to happen.  I would have never sent my sons to fish if I
had known it was dangerous.  We used to
go to that same place all the time and the soldiers used to watch us.  My whole family used to swim, cook and have
fun there over the weekends.  They knew
who we were.  I never let my sons go
beyond the fence.  I would never put my
children in danger.  It was normal to
fish there and there had never been any threat, yet on that day they decided to
shoot at my sons for no reason.”



Fahmi’s mother, Mariam Abu Riash


The Abu Riaj
family was fully dependent on fishing as a means of income before the death of
Fahmi.  Since the attack, the family is facing
hard times financially, as Marjam explains: “Fishing was the only thing
sustaining my family.  It is the only
thing my sons knew how to do.  Fahmi had
been fishing since he was 10 years old.  He
had been arrested twice by the Israeli Forces while he was fishing and released
at Erez on the same day.  They only used
to question him and release him afterwards. 
My sons had a boat but it was damaged in a previous incident and can no
longer be used.  Now Fahmi is dead,
Youssef is wounded and I will not send Ahmed back there to be killed.  My husband was injured in the First Intifada
and he is in no condition to work.  Ahmed
has now taken up temporary work at a construction site and his income is what
the family is living on.  Fahmi was the
first born son and he was responsible for the family.  We do not know what to do without him.”


The death of
Fahmi has been particularly hard for his mother.  She goes quiet then breaks down in tears as
she speaks of him: “My son was so close to my heart and they killed him.  Everything was destroyed by his death.  I was proud of how good he was at sports,
such as volleyball, football and swimming. 
He always promised me that when he got enough money, he would take me to
have surgery to correct a problem with my eyes. 
He had only been married for two years and he has left behind a 1-year-old
son.  This little child lost his father
and he will never know how it feels to have one.  Fahmi’s wife is still young, only 22.  She stays at home mourning her husband.  What does the future hold for her?  All my hope in life is lost.  I do not know how to move on without my son.  In the past, we were a bit hopeful that
everything would be okay but now we know that nothing is ever going to change.  The Israeli occupation is full of liars and
criminals.  They claimed that Fahmi had
gone beyond the border fence.  I never
allowed my sons to do that.  They have
never done that.  There was no reason for
my son’s death.”


The targeting
and killing of a civilian, a protected person, is a war crime, as codified in
Articles 8(2)(a)(i) and 8(2)(b)(i) of the Rome Statute of the International
Criminal Court.  Similarly, under Article
53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the destruction of private property is
prohibited unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. 


In addition, the
destruction of fishing equipment such as boats, which are private property, results
in Palestinians being unable to use the property necessary for the production
of food, violating numerous human rights provisions, including the right to
adequate food contained in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights.  Israel’s actions
against the fishermen is also a violation of their right to an adequate
standard of living, as codified in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights.