At 9am on Friday, 8 March 2019, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Al-Sudania area in the west of North Gaza district. The Israeli forces circulated and attacked a boat carrying four fishermen: Yaser Bakr, 31, Tamer Bakr, 27, Walid Bakr, and Yosri Bakr, 22—all of them residents of Al-Shati’ refugee camp in Gaza City. The four fishermen were working at a distance of about two nautical miles off the coast of Al-Sudania when they were shot with plastic-coated steel bullets and then detained. Their boat and fishing equipment were also confiscated.
Later in the evening of the same day, the four fishermen were released. When they arrived at Erez crossing, they were taken to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for treatment of injuries sustained in various parts of their bodies.
Documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that from the start of 2019, Israeli forces have carried out 61 attacks on fishermen, injuring nine fishermen and detaining 13 others, and confiscating six fishing boats. In the meantime, Israeli authorities continue to impose restrictions on the entry into Gaza of fishing equipment and materials needed to repair damaged boats. Israeli authorities restrict fishermen to a zone of between three and nine nautical miles—and frequently still target them regardless of whether they are working 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 demands that assaulted and dispossessed fishermen be compensated for the damages to their boats and lost wages. 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.