Sunday, 30 September 2012 00:00
On Friday, 28 September 2012, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian fisherman and wounded his brother, while they and a group of other fishermen were located a few meters from the shore in the northern Gaza Strip, pulling out their fishing nets. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns continued attacks by Israel’s forces against Palestinian fishermen in Gaza City, and expresses deep concern about the recent escalation of such attacks, in violation of fishermen’s right to life and work freely in Gaza Sea.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 09:30 on Friday, 28 September 2012, an Israeli infantry unit crossed the northwestern border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and moved nearly 20 meters into Palestinian territory, along the beach area of the northwestern town of Beit Lahia. Israeli soldiers took position behind a hill at the beach, facing onto a number of Palestinian fishermen who were fishing a few meters offshore. Israeli soldiers fired at the fishermen. The majority of the fishermen were able to flee. However, two fishermen, who were located nearly 15 meters away from the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, were unable to escape.
According to fishermen present in the area, Israeli soldiers fired directly at the two fishermen, wounding them. The two fishermen were identified as Fahmi Saleh Fahmi Abu Riash (22), who was wounded in the lower abdomen and thigh, and his brother Yousef (19), who was wounded by bullet shrapnel to the left hand. Nearby fishermen were later able to evacuate the two wounded men and carry them to a Palestinian Civil Defense ambulance, which was waiting nearly 350 meters away from the location of the incident. The ambulance transported the two wounded fishermen to Kamal Edwan Hospital in Beit Lahia.
According to the forensic report issued by Kamal Edwan Hospital, the two wounded fishermen were brought to the hospital at 10:55. Fahmi Abu Riash had been wounded by a bullet to the left thigh and another bullet to the left buttock that settled in the pelvis, causing an acute hemorrhage in the lower part of the abdomen. His brother, Yousef, was wounded by bullet shrapnel to the left hand. He received treatment and was released from the hospital in the afternoon. At approximately 15:30 on the same day, Fahmi Abu Riash was taken to the operation room, where he underwent a two-hour surgery. He was then taken to the intensive care unit, where he was pronounced dead at approximately 22:30.
In his testimony to PCHR, Yousef Mohammed Zayed (19), a fisherman from Beit Lahia, stated to PCHR:
“At approximately 05:00 on Friday, 28 September 2012, my brother Haitham, my cousins, Fahmi and Yousef Ahmed Saleh Abu Riash, and I went fishing opposite to Beit Lahia beach in the northern Gaza Strip. We started fishing nearly 70 meters away from the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. When the sun rose, we got as close as 15 meters to the border because fish was extensively available in the area. At approximately 09:30, I heard intensive shooting in the area. I looked back and saw about 9 Israeli soldiers atop a hill that is nearly 20 meters to the east of the beach. Immediately, Haitham, my cousin Ahmed, and I ran away and took shelter behind a hill, while Fahmi and Yousef remained stuck only 5 meters from the beach. Israeli soldiers shouted at them, and I saw my cousin Fahmi attempting to escape, but an Israeli soldier fired at him. He was wounded by a bullet to the left thigh. His brother Yousef attempted to offer him help, but he was also wounded by bullet shrapnel to the left hand. I saw Fahmi trying to stand up and escape, but an Israeli soldier fired at him again. Soon, some fishermen headed towards the two wounded fishermen and carried them to an ambulance of the Civil Defense, which transported them to Kamal Edwan Hospital. At approximately 22:30, Fahmi Saleh Abu Riash was pronounced dead.”
It should be noted that Israel’s forces have imposed restrictions on fishermen at sea. In 2009, they reduced the area allowed for fishing in Gaza waters from the 20 nautical miles provided for in the Oslo Accords to 3 nautical miles. Israel’s forces also prevent Palestinian fishermen from fishing within 1 nautical mile of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, although this area is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
PCHR condemns this latest crime and is concerned that it signifies a new escalation in the systematic human rights violations perpetrated by Israel’s forces against Palestinian fishermen. PCHR believes that these attacks form part of the collective punishment measures imposed on Palestinian civilians, as they deny Palestinian fishermen access to their livelihood, in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law. PCHR believes that targeting these two civilian fishermen from very close range constitutes a form of excessive use of force; the Israeli soldiers could have taken alternative actions against the fishermen, such as arrest, as they did not pose any threat to the lives of Israeli soldiers.
PCHR calls upon Israel:
1. To put an end to attacks against Palestinian fishermen in violation of their rights to life, safety, and security, and to allow them to fish freely in Gaza Sea;
2. To investigate the facts of this close-range attack against civilian fishermen, publish the results of such an investigation, and prosecute the Israeli soldiers who fired at two civilian fishermen, although the latter did not pose any threat to the lives of those soldiers;
3. To immediately put an end to its policy of chasing and arresting Palestinian fishermen at sea, and to return confiscated fishing boats and equipment;
4. To compensate the victims for the physical and material damage caused their person and property; and
5. To lift the naval blockade, which constitutes a form of collective punishment and is a war crime under international humanitarian law.