The Israeli Naval Blockade and Attacks on Fishermen in the Gaza Strip
This report addresses the Israeli–imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip and highlights the suffering of Palestinian fishermen while fishing in the Gaza Sea, in addition to the daily Israeli attacks against them. Through this, Israeli naval forces aim at restricting and preventing fishermen from practicing their work and even targeting their livelihood. Consequently, the fishing sector in the Gaza Strip has been unable to contribute effectively to the Palestinian economy, as its contribution in the Gross domestic product (GDP) remained very limited, comparing with previous years in which the fishing sector was a fast-growing sector.
This report monitors the reality of the fishermen’s work after the Israeli occupation authorities allowed expanding the permitted fishing area partially(6-15 nautical miles) since the beginning of April 2019, stressing that despite expanding the fishing area, there is no positive impact on the fishermen’s work, especially regarding the amount of fish production. This caused by the ongoing IOF’s attacks against fishermen sailing within the permitted fishing area and restricting the expansion of the fishing area only to the area beyond the Gaza Valley (from Central to southern Gaza Strip), as this area is characterized by the scarcity of fish in it. Moreover, during the reporting period, Israeli authorities reduced the permitted fishing area to 3 nautical miles and completely closed the sea for more than 20 times. Israeli authorities also continued to restrict the entry of equipment and necessary supplies required for fishermen in the Gaza Strip.
The report documents IOF’s attacks against fishermen in the Gaza Strip from 01 May 2019 to 30 June 2020: 133 shooting incidents were reported against fishermen while practicing their work, rendering 18 fishermen wounded and 8 fishing boats and dozens of fishing equipment damaged. Also, (15) fishermen were arrested, (8) fishing boats were detained and dozens of fishing nets were confiscated after Israeli naval forces chased the fishing boats. This confirms that expanding the allowed area for fishing by Israeli authorities from 6 to 15 nautical miles did not translate in cease on persecuting fishermen, chasing and shooting them at sea, and endangering their lives.
The report confirms that the Israeli occupation authorities still impose restrictions on the entry of equipment and necessary supplies for fishermen, including engines, gear (transmissions), fiberglass, steel cables and necessary spare parts for boats maintenance, 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 entry ban on spare parts required for building and maintaining boats led to closing dozens of workshops; as a limited number of which have continued to maintain fishing boats, while manufacturing new boats had 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 considers the Israeli practices against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip grave violation of all international conventions and agreements that affirm the right to work, especially the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Israeli attacks against fishermen are also considered as a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration on Social Progress and Development that both guarantee the right of all the society members to productive and useful work.
Moreover, the Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deals with the protection of civilians in time of war and affirms the need to protect workers and their rights.
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