On Friday 13 April 2012, Israeli
forces fired on a Palestinian fishing boat in the north part of the Gaza Strip.
Every week, thousands of fishermen are targeted by Israeli naval forces as they
attempt to secure their livelihood.
Nehad Raja Mohamed Al Hissi, 29, is
a fisherman. He is married and has 2 boys Mohamed (5), Mohamed Abdel Mena’m
(4), and 2 girls Ghazal (3) and Victoria (1). Since he was a child, Nehad has
fished with his father and brother; it is from them that he learnt his trade. He
remembers his childhood – before the Oslo accords and the restrictions imposing
a restrictive maritime closure – “the conditions were good and we used to catch
a lot of fish.” He recalls that everything the fishermen required to go fishing
was available, “we could go fishing freely every day”. Today, the situation is increasingly
difficult for Nehad and all the fishermen of the Gaza Strip.
After the second Intifada, the
Israeli forces start to confine the fishing area, in violation of the Oslo
accords which fix the authorized fishing limit at 20 nautical miles. Today,
fishermen are restricted to a distance of 3 nautical miles from shore. Nehad
notes that the problem is that “we don’t have precise measuring instrument to
identify the distance and sometimes even when we are before the 3 miles, they
arrest us and take our boats and all the equipment”. Nehad and his colleagues
have been arrested and detained more than three times in the past nine years.
The three arrests followed the same pattern,
which Nehad claims are characterized by violence and humiliation. During one
instance in 2003, Israeli forces demanded that Nehad and his brother move to
the front of the boat, take off their clothes, and swim to the Israeli boat. “I
remember the first arrest was during the winter and the sea was very cold”.
Then, the soldiers handcuffed them, blindfolded them and beat them. “They took
us and our ship to Ashod sea port, and imprisoned all of us without saying
anything”. On that instance, the Israelis released some of the fishermen but
kept Nehad and his coworker, Ali el Habil in detention. He implored the guards
to release him, explaining that he had a family who depended on him. He was
detained for 4 and half months until his release in January 2004 as part of the
swap deal involving the exchange of 463 prisoners for an Israeli colonel.
A few months after Nehad’s release
in 2004, the Israeli forces arrested his father, Rajab, an 85 years old man,
while he was fishing inside the allowed area. Rajab spent 20 days in prison
with no charge, no lawyer, and no trial. In 2006 Nehad was arrested again
several times, by different soldiers, but under the same degrading procedure. He
thinks back to this time and tells that he asked them “all that we do is trying
to support our families, so why do you mistreat us?” They answered him that “if
the Palestinian people release Gilad Shalit, the Israeli will allow you to fish
freely, will open the crossing’s borders and help you to live a better life”. A
few weeks ago, in the beginning of 2012, Nehad was captured again by Israeli
forces. “The soldiers on the gun boat heavily firing on us, claiming that we
were over the 3 nautical miles”. He was wounded in his hand and his fishing
boat sustained severe damages. He was taking in custody during hours and he asked
the soldiers “why you are still arresting us whereas Shalit is free?” The
soldiers replied that “this is not our business and it goes back to decision
Currently there are approximately 3,700
fishermen working in the Gaza Strip. In the first two months of 2012, 9
fishermen have been arbitrarily arrested. They are victims of the illegal
closure imposed by Israel as a form of collective punishment, in violation of
Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel’s treatment and detention of
fishermen also constitute a breach of articles 6 and 9 of International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, codifying the rights to life and,
liberty and security of person.