Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gaza Farmers and Fishers Find Canadian Support

In Gaza

Mohammed Al-Bakri from Gaza’s Union of Agricultural Work Committees points out the “no-go” zones for Palestinian fishers and farmers.

Gaza City, IPS- By Eva Bartlett (blog version longer than original published)
“From the coast to eight miles out, the sea is like a desert: it’s sandy and there are no fish.” Mohammed Al-Bakri traces a thick line on the wall map before him, following the lines of Gaza’s eastern and northern borders, continuing south from three miles off the coast.

General manager of Gaza’s Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bakri is well-versed in the woes of the Strip’s fishers and farmers. He explains the insufficient fishing waters Palestinians are limited to, and the consequences of being on the sea at all.
“The Israeli navy attacks the fishermen, arrests them and takes their boats, even within three miles,” he says, referring to the three-mile limit the Israeli authorities have unilaterally imposed on Palestinian fishers.
Under the Oslo accords, Palestinian fishers are authorised to fish 20 nautical miles into Gaza’s sea. The Israeli authorities have illegally downsized Palestinian fishing waters, using lethal violence to enforce new fishing limitations. On a given day, Palestinian fishers are subject to Israeli navy machine gun fire, shelling, water cannoning, and abductions.
“When the fishers are arrested, they just have a boat and a net,” says Bakri. “No weapons, they are just trying to catch to sell at the market, to earn money for their families.
On August 28, the Israeli navy arrested two fishermen: a 60 year old man and his 16 year old son, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reports.
Bakri says were less than one mile off Gaza’s coast. “The boat was engine-less, they wouldn’t go more than 3 miles in it.”
Testimony given to PCHR confirms this, the abducted fishers stating “when we were nearly 300 meters off al-Waha Resort, two Israeli gunboats arrived and circled my fishing boat.”
Following intensive shooting around their boat, the fishers were ordered to remove their clothes and swim to the Israeli gunboat, a practice that the majority of abducted Palestinian fishers say they are subject to.
“More than 500 fishers have been arrested and at least 12 killed by the Israeli navy,” says Mohammed Al-Bakri.
A July 2012 report by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, covering the period from January 2011 to April 2012, recounts offenses the Israeli navy committed, including the abduction of at least 60 fishers, the shooting and injuring of at least 12 fishers, more than 13 fisher’s boats taken, and the intentional damage of fisher’s nets and equipment.
With over 3,600 fishermen and 70,000 people dependent on income from the sea, Gaza’s fishing has been decimated by such Israeli tactics and policies. “When there is no income, fishers must depend on food aid from the United Nations (UN),” says Bakri. “But there are a lot of other needs, like housing, clothing, medical care, education.”

A fishing trawler roughly 500m off Gaza’s coast. 

Most fishers say there are virtually no fish before at least 6 to 8 miles out.
“If the situation continues like this, we won’t see any fishers on the sea in the future.”
Nor farmers.
Bakri refers back to the red line on the UN map of Gaza marked ‘Areas restricted for Palestinian access’. Imposed unilaterally by Israeli authorities, the “buffer zone” officially bans Palestinian farmers and civilians from the 300 metres of land flanking Gaza’s eastern and northern borders.
In reality, the UN, international NGOs, and Palestinian organisations have documented Israeli soldiers’ targeting of Palestinians even as far as nearly two kilometres from the border.
“Shooting at people accessing restricted areas is often carried out from remotely-controlled weapon stations…every several hundred metres along the fence, each containing machine guns protected by retractable armoured covers, whose fire can reach targets up to 1.5 km,” reads a 2010 UN report.
Via machine gun fire, shelling, flechette (dart) bombs, drone attacks, land razing and setting crops on fire, the Israeli army has rendered one-third of Gaza’s agricultural land deadly and inaccessible.
Palestinian farmers continue to face Israeli attacks as they attempt to farm their land, for the majority their sole source of income and food for their families.
“We need political support internationally, to pressure Israel into allowing farmers to work their land and fishers to access their sea,” says Bakri.
Heeding his call, and hoping to build “connections of mutual solidarity between Canada and Palestinian farmers and fishers,” a Vancouver-based group aims to broaden political support via their Sep. 30 ‘Day of Action For the Fishers and Farmers of Gaza, Palestine’.
“This particular aspect of the siege is quite compelling because when a society is deprived of the ability to fish and to farm, it is deprived of its ability to sustain itself. It’s part of the ongoing Nakba, and part of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” says Charlotte Kates, a lawyer and one of the Day of Action coordinators.
Kates and a delegation traveled to the Gaza Strip earlier this year, meeting with Palestinian fishers and farmers.
“We want to make it clear what is happening at the hands of the occupation, and how it is denying people’s right to live, to exist,” Kates says. “One of our translators could not attend our meetings: a cousin, in the ‘buffer zone’ had been murdered the same day by the Israeli military.”
Noting the close alliance of the Canadian government with Israel, Kates says “the government of (Canadian prime minister) Stephen Harper has nothing but praise for the Israeli state that enforces this siege on Gaza. On March 29, 2006, Canada became the first country in the world to impose a siege on the Palestinian people living in Gaza and the West Bank, declaring cancellation of aid to Palestine.”
Building cross-Canada and international alliances with Palestinian farmers, fishers and civil society is the Vancouver group’s focus with its Day of Action. No less important is changing Canadian policies regarding the siege of the Gaza Strip.
“We want to build a movement that can challenge the Canadian government on these policies, policies which predate the Harper government,” Kates says.
Canada is not alone in endorsing the illegal siege on Gaza – what Desmond Tutu and UN special rapporteurs John Dugard and Richard Falk, among many others, have called collective punishment.
“Last month, the European Union decided to increase their support with Israel,” says Mohammed Al-Bakri.
The Sep. 30 Day of Action will take place in cities across Canada, with “rallies, vigils, the launching of the book ‘Freedom Sailors’, and leafletting,” says Charlotte Kates.
The day of solidarity with Palestinian farmers and fishers has the backing of, among others, Independent Jewish Voices, the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG), and former Vancouver city councillor Tim Louis.
“The UN is quite aware of the inhuman condition that Palestinians are subjected to and yet there is no concrete action, except allowing humanitarian aid,” says Louis, calling for “the Canadian government stop its indiscriminate support for Israel until such a time when Israel complies with international law.”

see also:

Doors to the Sea: Gaza’s Fishers Under Siege (video)
Staying: Palestinian Fishers and Farmers in Gaza (video)
fishing under fire
farming under fire
articles from the “buffer zone”

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fisherman Killed By Israeli Navy Fire

Saturday September 29, 2012 02:07 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported, Friday, that a Palestinian fisherman was killed by Israeli navy fire west of Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The fisherman’s brother was wounded in the attack.
File - Image By
File - Image By
Dr. Ashfar Al-Qdura, spokesperson of the Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip told the Maan News Agency that Fahmi Salah Abu Rayyash, 22, was shot and seriously injured by Israeli fire on Friday morning, and died of his wounds at a local hospital on Friday evening.

Al-Qudra added that Fahmi was shot by one round of live ammunition in his abdomen and another round in his right foot.

Yousef, the brother of Fahmi, suffered mild injuries and received the needed medical treatment.

The attack is part of ongoing violations carried out by the Israeli army and navy against Palestinian fishermen in the coastal region; these attacks led to dozens of casualties, while dozens of fishermen were also kidnapped by the army.

Since 2000, fishermen have been denied their right to sail and fish, as Israel reduced the area of fishing from 20 nautical miles, which was established upon in the agreements signed between Palestinian and Israel, to 6 nautical miles in 2008.

However, Israeli forces have continued to prevent fishermen from going beyond 3 nautical miles since 2009.

As a result, fishermen are prevented from reaching areas beyond that distance where fish are abundant. Sometimes, Israeli forces also chase fishermen within the 3 nautical mile area.

Consequently, Palestinian fishermen have lost 85% of their income, because of limiting the fishing area.

Related Item:

PCHR Condemns Continued Israeli Violations against Palestinian Fishermen in the Gaza Strip 


Gaza fisherman dies after Israel shooting
Published today (updated) 29/09/2012 10:27
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – A fisherman from the northern Gaza Strip was pronounced dead Friday evening after he succumbed to wounds sustained by Israeli fire off the coast in Beit Lahiya.

Spokesman of the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma’an that 22-year-old Fahmi Salah Abu Rayash died of his injuries Friday evening. He noted that Abu Rayash was shot earlier by Israeli snipers stations across the borders with the coastal enclave.

Al-Qidra explained that the fisherman was shot in his abdomen and his foot.

The victim’s brother Yousuf, who was with him in the trip, was also shot, but medics said he sustained a minor wound.

Both Palestinian brothers were transferred to Kamal Idwan hospital after they came under fire.

Health officials initially said one of the brothers was shot in his right foot, and the other in the hand.

An Israeli army spokesman said several people had approached the fence on the northern border, and after they didn't respond to warning shots, soldiers fired toward their legs.

The area is frequently used by militants to plant explosive devices, he added.

Al Mezan


IOF Kills Palestinian Fisherman and Injures another in North Gaza District, Al Mezan Condemns Israeli Attacks on Fishermen

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continue to escalate its violation against Palestinian fishermen in Gaza waters. The IOF regularly opens fire against fishermen, detains them, and confiscates their fishing boats, preventing them from working. Recently, the IOF killed a fisherman and injured his brother in North Gaza district.
According to the documentation conducted by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, at approximately 9:30 am on Friday 27 September 2012, Israeli naval vessels patrolling the Gaza sea opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off the coast northwest of Al Waha resort—near the maritime border—northwest of BeitLahiya, North Gaza district.  The Israeli ships then opened fire on two fishermen. The fishermen were terrified and left their fishing nets and sailed to the south wards. As a result, Fahmiand his YousifSaleh Abu Riyash (22 and 19 respectively) were injured. Medical sources at Kamal Odwan Hospital described the injury of Fahmi as critical. A bullet entered his left thigh and stabled in the abdomen. At approximately 10:30 pm on the same day, medical sources announced his death. His brother Yousif sustained bullet wound in the left hand and his injury was described as moderate.
According to Al Mezan’s field investigations, the two injured fishermen were carried to the south to the nearest point where an ambulance can reach. An ambulance from the Civil Defense carried them to the hospital. The two brothers are from As-Salateen area in BeitLahiya, in North Gaza district.
Al Mezan reiterates its strong condemnation of Israel’s continuous violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law in its dealings with Palestinian fishermen.  Al Mezan considers Israel’s demarcation of a no-go line for Palestinian fishermen (marked by illuminated buoys), the ongoing maritime siege, and the policy of preventing fishermen from working in the areas most full of fish as part of a series of collective punishments imposed on the Gaza Strip.  It is part of the general Israeli siege on Gaza, which is a form of collective punishment that is banned under international law and may amount to a war crime and a crime against humanity.
Therefore, Al Mezan calls on the international community to promptly intervene to uphold its moral obligations and its commitments under international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, and to ensure respect for the principles of IHL at all times.  It also calls on the international community to take all necessary measures to end Israel’s gross violations of human rights, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to take immediate steps to lift the illegal siege imposed on Gaza, including by ensuring freedom to work for Palestinian fishermen.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Euro-Mid Unveils Footage of Israeli Warships Deliberately Dumping Palestinian Fishing Boats‏

Geneva- Gaza,

Euro-Mid denounced Israeli warships' deliberate act of attacking and dumping Palestinian fishing boats within the permissible fishing zone; endangering the lives of fishermen and civilians onboard the boats.
Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights has distributed a video recording captured by a journalist working for Media Town. The Video shows two Israeli worships pursuing five Palestinian fishing boats owned by Gazan citizens in the Gazan waters. The footage was recorded at 10: 30 Tuesday morning, August 28.   
Euro-Mid condemned the ruthless attack of the Israeli warships which directly endangered the lives of Palestinian fishermen. Meanwhile, Euro-Mid warned against the continuation of such barbarous practices in the absence of international monitoring and deterrence.
Euro-Mid considered the attack one of the many systematic practices used by Israel to destroy the fishing sector in the Gaza Strip, a sector that sustains more than 70,000 residents at time of high levels of unemployment and poverty due to Israeli siege.
Euro-Mid noted the attack occurred within the three nautical mile limit set by Israeli military. The fishing boats shown in the video, in fact, were chased at a distance of less than two nautical miles from shore which is an evident violation of the international law and the Israel's own law.
A detailed report by Euro-Mid was issued last May concluded that Israeli authorities did not only limit the permissible fishing zone, but also intended to prevent a great number of fishermen( around 3600) from practicing their own trade freely and safely, even within the permissible 3-mile limit, using its warships.
Euro-Mid report documented an estimate number of 150 violations per year committed by Israel against Gaza fishermen including arbitrarily arrests and shootings, in addition to dumping, vandalizing, and confiscating fishing boats.

Israeli navy harassing Palestinian fishermen at 400 mt from Gaza beach - 28 August 2012

Canale di rosaingaza

I took this video this morning while I was in Soudania beach, north Gaza city.
At about 10.50 am the two boats of the Israeli navy surrounded 6 palestinians fishing boats.
Also, the Israeli navy shot at one of the palestinian boats with five bullets.
After 15 minutes, the fishermen escaped and went back to the port of Gaza city.

The fishing zone was supposed to be 20 nautical miles, according to the Jericho agreements from 1994 (under the Oslo accords), then it was reduced to 12 miles, to 6 miles and now to 3 miles since January 2009. The marine 'buffer zone' restricts Gazan fishermen from accessing 85% of Gaza's fishing waters agreed to by Oslo.
Israel has been regularly attacking Palestinian fishermen within the purported 3 nautical mile fishing limit.
The livelihood of many Gazans relies on fishing and Israel has been using live ammunition and water cannons to prevent fishermen from doing their work.