In the latest of the regular attacks by Israeli naval forces off of Gaza’s coast, one fisherman was killed and two others were injured and then detained over the weekend. Al Mezan stresses that the constant harassment and detention of Palestinian fishermen, that includes the confiscation and destruction of their equipment, is part of an unlawful closure and blockade policy that amounts to collective punishment. The body of the 18-year-old is still being held by the Israeli authorities at the time of publication.
Al Mezan’s monitoring shows that at 3:30pm on Sunday, 25 February 2018, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen who were sailing off the coast of Gaza City. The navy boat surrounded a Palestinian fishing boat that had three fishermen onboard and opened fire at it. Ismael Saleh Abu Reyala, 18, was hit in the head with live ammunition. Fisherman Mahmoud Adel Abu Reyala, 19, sustained injuries to his abdomen and left leg by rubber bullets and fisherman Ahed Hasan Abu Ali, 24, sustained injuries to his left knee after also being shot with a rubber bullet. The three fishermen were arrested and brought to a detention center in Israel. Later, at around 8:00pm, the Israeli authorities announced the death of Ismael Abu Reyala as result of the injury to his head, and the release of the other two fishermen. The shooting incident occurred while the fishermen were sailing near the Gaza City port, which is well within the three nautical mile permitted zone.
Given the Israeli authorities’ practice of holding the bodies of Palestinians killed by its forces for extended periods of time, it is noteworthy that the Israeli authorities are still holding the body of Ismael at the time of publication. The Committee Against Torture criticized this practice in its 2016 Concluding Observations in regards to bodies being held at that time stating that, “[t]he State party should take the measures necessary to return the bodies of the Palestinians that have not yet been returned to their relatives as soon as possible so they can be buried in accordance with their traditions and religious customs, and to avoid that similar situations are repeated in the future.”
The Israeli authorities’ practices at sea restrict the fishermen’s movement and seriously undermine their livelihood. On 22 March 1996, the Israeli authorities restricted the fishing zone from 20 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles, then to six nautical miles, and often, the fishing zone fluctuate between three and nine nautical miles. The Israeli authorities have at times prevented Palestinian fishermen from accessing any amount of the sea, despite their right to 20 nautical miles in line with the Oslo Accords.
Since October 2000, the Israeli forces have carried out attacks on Palestinian fishermen, which include shooting, harassment, verbal and physical abuse, pumping wastewater into their boats, and arresting them by forcing them to strip off their clothes and swim to the Israeli gunboats. Another regular practice has been the destruction and confiscation of fishing boats and equipment. Usually, these attacks are carried out in the permitted fishing zone.
Since 2000, Al Mezan has documented 1,283 attacks on Palestinian fishermen, including 1,192 shooting incidents that led to the death of eight fishermen and to the injury of 134 fishermen. During these assaults, 656 fishermen were detained, and 209 boats were confiscated. Al Mezan also documented 111 incidents involving Israeli destruction of fishing equipment, such as nets and flashlights.
These assaults, which deprive the fishermen of their right to work and right to liberty and security of person in violation of international human rights law, compound the dire conditions of the fishing community in the Gaza Strip, 80% of whom live below the poverty line. The Israeli authorities’ practices that hinder the fishermen’s access to Palestinian territorial waters restricts their enjoyment of Palestine’s natural resources, therefore undermining the community’s economic stability, and stifling what would otherwise be a viable sector within the Palestinian economy. The consequences are not limited to fishermen; job opportunities are reduced for stakeholders in the fishing industry, including boat builders, net makers, maintenance workers, and fish traders and consumers.
According to the Palestinian Fishermen’s Syndicate, there are 3,800 registered fishermen in the Gaza Strip. Only 2,000 of them are currently working as a result of the restrictions, constant attacks and growing cost of fishing equipment.
Al Mezan condemns the killing of Ismael Abu Reyala and stresses that the silence and lack of action by the international community enables the continuation of the policies and practices that led to his death.
Deeply concerned by the impact that these restrictions have on the economy and the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, Al Mezan urges members of the international community to take immediate and effective steps to protect Palestinian civilians and to raise the dire living conditions in Gaza.
 CAT/C/ISR/CO/5 Available here: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CAT%2fC%2fISR%2fCO%2f5&Lang=en