Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Israeli military vehicles cross Gaza border, navy fires at fishermen

Published Tuesday 14/01/2014 (updated) 19/01/2014 10:51
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli military vehicles crossed into the northern Gaza Strip for surveillance activities on Monday, witnesses told Ma'an.

The limited incursion took place in a border region near Beit Lahiya, the witnesses said.

Separately, Israeli warships opened fire at Palestinian fishermen off the coast near al-Sudaniyya west of Beit Lahiya.

No injuries were reported, but the fishermen fled and were unable to continue fishing.

The Gaza Strip has been under a severe blockade imposed by Israel since 2006.

Palestinian fishermen are only allowed to go 3 nautical miles from Gaza's shore, even though Israeli-Palestinian agreements previously settled on 20 nautical miles.

Israeli naval forces frequently harass Palestinian fishermen who near the 3-mile limit, as well as those inside the zone.

There are 4,000 fishermen in Gaza. According to a 2011 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, 90 percent are poor, an increase of 40 percent from 2008 and a result of Israeli limits on the fishing industry.

The Israeli blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Israel’s attacks on Palestinian fishermen in Gaza flaunt international conventions

7th January 2014 | International Solidarity Movement, Charlie Andreasson | Gaza, Occupied Palestine

(Photo by Charlie Andreasson)
(Photo by Charlie Andreasson)

On Saturday, 4th January, the Israeli navby shot at five fishermen and their boat, a hasaka,  three nautical miles from the shore of Gaza, well within the highly-restricted part of Palestine waters in which the occupation forces officially allow them to fish. Despite damage to the boat, and water that flooded it, Majed Baker, age 55, and his four relatives managed to return to port and get the boat onto shore. A total of nine bullet holes were counted, some below the waterline.
Previously, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Information in Gaza, the Israeli military had restricted waters in the north. It thereby expanded the nautical “buffer zone” by Israeli waters through military force, and without declaring its intentions in advance. Nor has it made any statement in retrospect. The restriction of the fishing waters in the north is confirmed by the affected fishermen. The same pattern can be discerned in the rest of the increasingly narrowed zone. According to Zakaria Baker, coordinator of the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees (UAWC)’s fishermen’s committee, all boats that tried to sail further than four miles from the coast have been attacked since the beginning of the year, and the “buffer zone” in the south, by Egyptian waters, has been curtailed drastically. This means boats in Rafah must sail north along the coast for some distance before they can venture into fishing grounds.
These restrictions affect the fishing industry severely, especially now, during the peak season. As a result of Israeli aggression, the total catch has fallen by 42% since 2000, and the number of registered fishermen has declined from about 5,000 in the 1980s to less than 3,000 today, according to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Attacks and shootings against Palestinian fishermen, sometimes resulting in fatal and other injuries, arrests and seizures of boats, and destruction of fishing gear, are common and documented by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Since neither the Palestinian fishing industry nor fishermen themselves endanger the State of Israel, these abuses cannot be understood as anything other than collective punishment, which violates the fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33.
Behind all the numbers and statistics lurk people. When an occupying power, in this case Israel, is allowed to continue to violate international conventions by the world community, it allows other nations to do the same. This erosion of established conventions is a threat to the people they are meant to protect, and can eventually affect relations between states. The attack on the five fishermen is therefore a concern for the entire international community, and not an internal matter between Israel and those living under its occupation.

Israeli navy boats open fire at Palestinian fishing boats

[ 07/01/2014 - 10:31 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli navy boats opened machinegun fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning.
Palestinian sources said that no casualties were reported in the shooting that took place while the fishermen while trying to fish in Gaza’s regional waters.
The Israeli navy restricts the fishing area for the Palestinian fishermen to less than six nautical miles that was specified in the calm agreement brokered between Palestinian resistance and the Israeli occupation authorities under Egyptian auspices in November 2011.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Israeli gunboats fire at Palestinian fishing boats

[ 06/01/2014 - 11:21 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- Israeli navy gunboats opened heavy machinegun fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of northern Gaza Strip on Monday morning.
Eyewitnesses said that the shooting forced the fishermen to abandon their ships and go back to land. No casualties were reported.
Israeli navy targets Palestinian fishing boats off the coasts of Gaza Strip on daily basis and deprive them of their right to fish outside a restricted area of three nautical miles.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Gaza fishermen suffer 85 percent income loss as Israeli siege, attacks continue

4th January 2014 | The Electronic Intifada, Joe Catron | Gaza City, Occupied Palestine

Small fishing boats, or hasakas, moored in the Gaza seaport. (Photo by Charlie Andreasson)
Small fishing boats, or hasakat, moored in the Gaza seaport. (Photo by Charlie Andreasson)

On 17 December, Palestinian fishermen and their supporters erected a tent — a traditional venue for protest, as well as celebration and mourning — inside the Gaza seaport.
“It was to highlight the situation, the crimes of the Israelis against fishermen here,” said Amjad al-Shrafi, treasurer of the General Union of Fishermen. “We wanted to send a message about the blockade against the fishermen and how we cannot fish freely.”
The protest, organized under the title Free the Holy Land Sea, ended two days later with the delivery of a letter to the nearby office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, demanding international protection for fishermen.
Over three days, hundreds of well-wishers visited a crowded tent decorated with banners and posters supporting fishermen. The organizations represented on its walls ranged from human rights centers to prisoner support groups.

Under fire

“One of our main goals was to push governments around the world to force Israel to give fishermen free lives and let us sail without any limits,” al-Shrafi said. “It’s our right to sail freely in our waters.”
“Another was to pressure the Israeli forces to release the boats and fishermen they have captured.”
Palestinian fishermen in coastal waters off the Gaza Strip frequently come under fire byIsraeli naval forces, which target their boats on both sides of a boundary imposed by Israel.
Israel deploys its gunships into Palestinian waters using an information technology infrastructure administered by Hewlett-Packard (“Technologies of control: The case of Hewlett-Packard,” Who Profits, December 2011).
Through its subsidiary, HP Israel, the US corporation won a contract to run the Israeli navy’s computer and communications network in August 2006 (“HP Israel wins navy IT outsourcing contract,” Globes, 14 August 2006).
The fishing area permitted by Israel, which doubled in size as part of the ceasefire agreement ending eight days of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip and retaliatory fire by Palestinian resistance groups in November 2012, now officially reaches six nautical miles from the shore.
But fishermen say the Israeli navy often shoots at them and sometimes captures them and their boats well within the zone it ostensibly allows them.


Fishermen and supporters hold posters with images of colleagues captured by Israeli forces, in Gaza City on 19 December 2013. (Photo by Joe Catron)
Fishermen and supporters hold posters with images of colleagues captured by Israeli forces, in Gaza City on 19 December 2013. (Photo by Joe Catron)

“We were far from the prohibited zone, 500 meters away,” said Saddam Abu Warda, a 23-year-old fisherman whom the Israeli navy captured along with his 18-year-old brother Mahmoud around 9am on 10 November.
“They were shouting, ‘You must get out of here in five minutes.’ We had to cut the net to pull it out of the water. Then they started to fire bullets close to our hasaka [small boat]. As they came close to us, their boat looked like a big building with lights.”
The Abu Wardas’ small boat had no engine. “We tried to escape by paddling quickly,” Saddam Abu Warda said. “They forced us to take off our clothes and raise our hands. They were firing bullets in the air and in front of our hasaka. One soldier was shouting, ‘You have to leave your hasaka and get in the water.’ I was shocked. I couldn’t move. I didn’t know why.”
Finally, gunfire forced the brothers into the cold water. “They didn’t stop firing bullets over our heads,” Abu Warda said. “I was far from my brother. He started shouting, saying, ‘I am injured.’ He wasn’t able to keep swimming. I swam back to my brother to try and save him. His blood was [spilling] in the water. Then two small boats came close to us. They pulled my brother from the water. They didn’t take me.”
When Abu Warda reached the Israeli gunship, he lost consciousness after soldiers bound, hooded and kicked him. He awoke in a detention facility in Ashdod, a port in present-day Israel beside his brother Mahmoud, whose right abdomen was stitched by military physicians. The brothers said that Israeli bullets caused the wound.
During an interrogation after he awoke, an Israeli soldier tried to convince him otherwise. “I told him, ‘Three of your gunboats were around us. They were firing bullets. My brother’s blood was everywhere in the water. He was injured by your soldiers.’”
After a lengthy interrogation that continued both in Ashdod port and after their transfer to a detention center by the Erez crossing between Gaza and present-day Israel, Israeli forces released the Abu Wardas into the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun around 10pm — 13 hours after their capture. Their boat and its equipment remained behind.
“We have three hasakas in the Ashdod port,” Abu Warda said of his family’s prior losses to the Israeli navy.

Severe damage

The Abu Wardas’ experiences echo many more documented in a new report by thePalestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). The PCHR, which supported the Free the Holy Land Sea campaign, is translating the document — already published in Arabic — into English.
Over four years, from 1 September 2009 through 31 August 2013, the Israeli navy killed two fishermen, wounded 24, and captured 147, according to the report. The navy also seized 45 boats and destroyed or damaged 113 more.
The report also records the losses incurred by about thirty bombings of four fishing ports during Israel’s November 2012 attacks on the Gaza Strip, including damages to an additional 80 boats and destruction of a health clinic and a youth center used by fishermen.
“There was severe damage to different fishing facilities during the military offensive,” said Khalil Shaheen, director of PCHR’s economic and social rights unit.” At the ports in Gaza City, Middle Area, Khan Younis and Rafah, different facilities were targeted and destroyed.”
“The report also documents the impact of the total damage to fishermen and the fishing sector,” Shaheen added. “One of the main impacts was the loss of 85 percent of income in the fishing sector, as the result of access restrictions and the naval blockade.”
Casualties have continued to mount in the four months since the period covered by the report ended. The PCHR publishes regular reports on human rights abuses in Gaza. These reports indicate that Israel has shot at fishermen at least 37 times since September, as well as seizing six boats.
“I would like to thank all the solidarity campaigns who were involved in this action and show solidarity with Palestinian fishermen,” al-Shrafi said.
“We ask that the international community continue to pressure their governments, to ask for dignity and a free life for us.”

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine. He co-edited The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange. He blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com and tweets @jncatron.