Two months on from the ceasefire that ended a 50-day Israeli bombardment of Gaza, human rights defenders have accused Israel of routinely violating the terms of the agreement that ended the hostilities.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has published figures detailing repeated attacks throughout September on Palestinian civilians in Gaza’s so-called ‘buffer zone’, or Access Restricted Areas (ARA).
Attacks by Israeli naval forces included 18 shooting incidents and four further incidents when fishermen were chased and arrested. On 17 September, a 69-year-old fisherman was shot in the leg as he stood 200m from the coastal border fence working with his sons.
As part of the 26 August ceasefire agreement, Palestinian fishermen were to be permitted to work up to 6 nautical miles from shore (under the Oslo Accords, Gaza’s maritime area was defined as 20 nautical miles). Yet according to PCHR, all the documented attacks through September “took place within the distance of 6 nautical miles.”
Just this Wednesday, Israeli naval forces arrested seven fishermen off the coast of northern Gaza, claiming that they had gone beyond the six-nautical mile limit imposed by Israel’s blockade. The forces fired warning shots and rubber-coated metal bullets, injuring one.
According to PCHR, in addition to the attacks at sea, September also saw 13 attacks by Israeli forces close to the border fence, including shootings and two ground incursions. On 28 September, for example, Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian in northern Beit Lahia.
Israel established the ‘buffer zone’ in the Gaza Strip after its redeployment of forces in 2005 (the ‘disengagement’), establishing a no-go area enforced with live fire. As PCHR describe:
Preventing Palestinians from accessing their lands and fishing areas violates numerous provisions of international human rights law, including the right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Enforcing the ‘buffer zone’ through the use of live fire often results in, inter alia, the direct targeting of civilians and/or indiscriminate attacks, both of which constitute war crimes.
The Israeli military’s actions in the border fence ‘buffer zone’, as well as those off Gaza’s shore, make for a total of 35 attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinians during the month of September alone, an average of more than one incident per day.
Since the end of ‘Operation Protective Edge’, Palestinian factions in Gaza have not fired a single rocket in two months, with one mortar shell fired from inside the Gaza Strip reportedly landing in Israel on 16 September. Hamas denied having anything to do with the mortar fire, and no other group took responsibility.
There is a precedent here. In the first three months after November 2012’s ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’, there were more than 100 incidents of Israeli forces shooting Palestinians, conducting border incursions, or attacking fishermen. These attacks killed 4 and wounded 91. During the same period, no rockets and just two mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Now we have yet another example of Israel’s definition of a ‘period of calm’.