Thursday, June 3, 2021: After banning all Palestinian access to Gaza's sea space during its recent attack on the Strip, Israel continues to restrict access to the "fishing zone" it enforces in Gaza's territorial waters up to a maximal distance of six nautical miles off shore. The fishing unions in Gaza have reported multiple incidents of fire by the Israeli navy toward fishermen and their boats even within the permitted zone. The navy's harassment of Palestinian fishermen puts their lives at risk and damages the boats and fishing equipment they use to make a living.
In an urgent appeal by human rights organization Gisha, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and Gaza-based Al Mezan to Israel's Defense Minister, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), and the Military Advocate General, the organizations demand they immediately remove all ongoing restrictions on access to the sea in Gaza and put a stop to the Israeli navy's harassment of fishermen.
The fishing sector in Gaza was badly hit during Israel's recent airstrikes (starting on May 11), which targeted civilian buildings and infrastructure, causing damage to fishing boats and equipment. Israel's decision to ban access to Gaza's sea space for two weeks exacerbated the harm to over 50,000 people whose livelihoods depend on the fishing sector.
The ongoing prohibition on exit of goods from Gaza since May 11 – which Israel continues to enforce today, two weeks into the ceasefire – further impairs the livelihoods of fishermen and suppliers in the Strip. Gisha was told that fish prices in Gaza have plummeted as a result of Israel blocking their exit from the Strip to be marketed in the West Bank, and fish are being sold in Gaza at a loss. Gaza's fishing sector had already been undermined and harmed by years of Israel’s restrictions on access to the sea in Gaza, violent harassment by the Israeli navy, confiscation of fishing boats and equipment, and restrictions on access to necessary materials for fishing and repairing boats.
The organizations call on the Defense Minister, COGAT, and the Military Advocate General to "instruct the cancelation of restrictions on Palestinian access to the sea space, as well as the cancelation of regulations allowing the use of live fire and the harm to fishermen and their property; to immediately put a stop to the ongoing harassment of fishermen from Gaza."
The sweeping ban on access to the sea imposed by Israel during the recent escalation, and the enduring restrictions on the "fishing zone" in Gaza constitute prohibited collective punishment. The Israeli navy's conduct in Gaza's sea space, and the use of live fire against Palestinian fishermen in the absence of an immediate and concrete threat to life, are a grave and disproportionate violation of fundamental rights, and must be stopped.
To read the appeal by Gisha, Adalah and Al Mezan, see here.