An Israeli human rights organisation has criticised its government's reduction of the fishing limit for Gaza's fishermen from six to three nautical miles. "This constitutes collective punishment and severely damages the livelihood of the fishermen," said the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B'Tselem) in a statement issued in the wake of new Israeli measures against the people of the Gaza Strip.
The new measures have, it was revealed by army spokesman Avichay Adraee, been agreed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon. The excuse given by Adraee for the punishing new limit was the launch of "five rockets from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli targets". The Palestinian government in Gaza denies that any rockets were fired last week. It condemned the restricted fishing limit and the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the normal entry and exit point for commercial goods.
According to B'Tselem, the moves by the Israeli government are violations of the Geneva Conventions. "Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids collective punishment and states that a person must not be punished for an act that he or she did not commit," it said in a statement. "It is Israel's duty to protect its borders and its citizens and to act to neutralise a threat when it arises, but this cannot justify the harsh damage to fishermen who have done nothing wrong." The organisation pointed out that the fishing limit agreed under the Oslo Accords is 20 nautical miles.
"Even after Oslo, in practice the Israeli military initially allowed Gaza fishermen to fish at a maximum of only 12 nautical miles. Over the years, Israel reduced this range and after Operation Cast Lead limited it to three nautical miles." This was extended to six miles as one of the terms of the ceasefire agreed last November between Israel and the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
However, said B'Tselem, six nautical miles itself is barely enough to meet the needs of the Gaza population and to guarantee the livelihood of those who are dependent on the fishing industry.
The head of the Popular Committee against the Israeli Siege on Gaza, Jamal Al-Khodari, condemned the punishing Israeli measures which tighten the siege. In a press conference held at Gaza City's fishing port, Al-Khodari called on international organisations to do their best to lift the siege and not allow Israel to tighten it.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad