On 15 October 2017, the Israeli navy arrested four fishermen and confiscated a boat in two separate incidents. The arrests, which were carried out in quick succession, took place at approximately one nautical mile off the shore from the area of Al Waha, west of Beit Lahia in North Gaza. Often subjected to harassment, shooting, and detention as well as confiscation of equipment by the Israeli navy, Palestinian fishermen are among the most vulnerable groups in Gaza. The treatment, which often amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, deprives Palestinian fishermen of their right to work, and consequently their livelihoods.
According to Al Mezan’s monitoring and documentation, the first arrest took place at around 6 am. The Israeli navy surrounded a boat carrying two fishermen, and used live ammunition to deter the two from withdrawing to Gaza’s shore. Similarly to previous attacks, the Israeli navy began circling the fishing boat, indicating the imminent arrest. The two fishermen—Tariq Al-Sultan, 22, and Mohammed Yazid, 23, both residents of Beit Lahia—were then, at gunpoint, ordered to strip off their clothes, jump into the water and swim to the Israeli boat. Once aboard the Israeli vessel, the two were detained and their boat—including the fishing equipment—was confiscated.
At 6:15, 15 minutes after the first incident, the Israeli navy arrested Fouad Al-Sultan, 25, and Mahmoud Al-Sultan, 19, using the same tactics. The four men were taken to a location that is unknown to Al Mezan at the time of issuing this press release. The two incidents prompted other fishermen in the area to abandon their work for the day.
From the beginning of 2017 until the time of publication, the Israeli navy opened fire in 142 incidents, killing two Palestinian fishermen and injuring ten. In a separate incident, a fisherman went missing after an Israeli navy vessel collided with his boat; he is presumed dead. In the same period, the Israeli navy detained 28 fishermen and confiscated ten fishing boats.
The continued attacks on Palestinian fishermen are part of a systematic Israeli policy aimed at limiting fishermen’s access to work, consequently diminishing their economic security and enjoyment of Palestinian natural resources. Al Mezan demands that the Israeli authorities immediately release the four men.
The Israeli government, as duty bearer in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and as signatory to the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, has recognized the right to work of Palestinian fishermen, “which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain [her or his] living by work which [she or he] freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right” (Article 6). The fishermen are civilian protected persons who must not be subjected to recurring violations, such as arbitrary detention, inhuman treatment and attacks in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Bearing in mind that the right to work is a foundation for the realization of other human rights and for life with dignity, Palestinian fishermen must be allowed to work freely and safely within the 20 nautical miles that the Oslo Accords stipulate.
Al Mezan urges the members of the international community to act on their moral and legal obligations to take immediate steps to protect Palestinian fishermen in the oPt and to exert necessary pressure on Israel to comply with international standards, including international human rights law.