At approximately 11:20am on Saturday, 15 December 2018, Israeli naval forces opened fire at four Palestinian fishermen on two boats. The fishermen had been working at a distance of about four nautical miles off the coast of Al-Nuseirat in the Middle Area of Gaza—and were well within the Israeli-enforced permitted fishing zone at the time of the shooting. The naval forces detained the fishermen and confiscated two boats. The fishermen have been identified as: Mohammed Saleh Abu Reyala, 30, (child) Atef Saleh Abu Reyala, 16, Mohammed Salah Abu Reyala, 27, and Mohammed Falah Abu Reyala, 19, and are residents of Al-Shati’ refugee camp in the west of Gaza City. At 9pm the same day, Atef was released. The others remain in detention at the time of publication.
Documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that from the start of 2018, Israeli forces have carried out 291 attacks on fishermen—288 of them with live fire—killing two fishermen, injuring 17 fishermen, detaining 66 fishermen, confiscating 21 fishing boats, and sinking one boat. In the meantime, Israeli authorities continue to impose restrictions on the entry of fishing equipment and materials needed to repair damaged boats into Gaza within the context of the 11-year closure. Israeli authorities restrict fishermen to a zone of between three and nine nautical miles—and as demonstrated in the case on Saturday, still target them within the permitted zone.
Al Mezan condemns the violence against fishermen and stresses that the constant harassment, detention, and shooting is part of an unlawful closure policy that amounts to a prohibited collective punishment. These attacks are unwarranted and compound the dire conditions of the fishing community in the Gaza Strip, 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line. Israel’s policy to hinder fishermen’s access to Palestinian territorial waters restricts their enjoyment of Palestine’s natural resources. Preventing the fishing community from working safely and freely stifles what would otherwise be a viable sector in the Palestinian economy.
Al Mezan calls for the immediate release of the fishermen and for compensation to be paid for the loss of the boats. Al Mezan urges members of the international community to take immediate steps to protect Palestinian civilians and to seek an end to Israel’s closure. Fishermen must be protected so that they can work and earn a living safely and with dignity.