On 14 November 2018, Israeli authorities informed the Palestinian Civil Liaison Office of new limitations on Gaza’s fishing zone: Palestinian fishermen would now be prohibited from working in the waters between the demarcation line in the north of the Gaza Strip and Gaza City’s port. The Israeli forces continue to open fire on fishermen who enter the restricted-access areas. The rest of the restrictions imposed on Palestinian fishermen remain as they were, with fishing permitted within only six nautical miles between Gaza City’s port and the Gaza Valley and within only nine nautical miles between Gaza Valley and Gaza’s southern parameters.
The new restrictions reduce Gaza’s fishing zone by about one third and will likely entail economic repercussions for Gaza’s fishing community—80% of whom already live below the poverty line. It’s worth noting that the Oslo Accords afforded Palestinian fishermen an area of 20 nautical miles in which to work. Once a viable sector in the economy, approximately 3,000 fishermen are still active—a decline prompted not just by restrictions, but also by the constant harassment, shooting and arrest of Palestinian fishermen. The Israeli navy’s practices also include destruction of nets and equipment and confiscation of boats. By prohibiting access to a majority of Palestinian territorial waters, the Israeli government is severely restricting the protected population’s enjoyment of Palestine’s natural resources.
These practices are part of an unlawful closure and blockade policy that amounts to a prohibited collective punishment under international law. Fishermen must be protected and must have access to Palestine’s territorial waters so that they can work and earn a living in dignity and safety.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights stresses that the new restrictions, as well as the range of different violations perpetrated against fishermen, are in breach of international law and compound the dire living conditions of the fishing community in the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan urges members of the international community, led by High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to take prompt steps to pressure Israeli authorities to cease all restrictions and violations against fishermen and to end the closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip.