Israeli naval forces subjected Palestinian fishermen working off the coast of the Gaza Strip to repeated attacks during 2018, Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem reported this week.
The violence included the fatal shooting of fisherman Isma’il Abu Ryalah. Six other Palestinian fishermen were injured with rubber-coated metal bullets.
Over the course of 2018, the Israeli navy’s routine harassment of fishermen saw 53 Palestinians arrested, three of whom had not been released as of January 2019, B’Tselem noted.
The Israeli navy “also confiscated dozens of hasakes [a type of paddle board] after sea chases,” while “navy fire resulted in damage to 32 fishing boat floodlights, three GPS devices and one echo sounding device that helps locate fish”. In these pursuits, “121 fishing nets were lost at sea”, the NGO added.
According to B’Tselem, the Israeli military “routinely” abuses fishermen “on various grounds,” explaining: “One reason alleged is boats sailing beyond the permitted area, even when fishermen use GPS devices and ensure they remain within the permitted boundaries”.
In addition, “Israel also restricts the export and marketing of fish and prohibits the import of goods and gear essential to the maintenance of the fishing sector, for example, for repairing hasakes and engines”.
Israeli restrictions and violence have dealt the besieged Strip’s fishing sector a devastating blow; in 2000, there were 10,000 registered fishermen in Gaza, now there are about 3,700. Moreover, “in practice, only about half of the registered fishermen actually fish, as many cannot use their boats due to the lack of supplies to repair them or build new ones, or because the [Israeli] military confiscated the boats”.
B’Tselem stated that “Israel’s policy regarding the fishing sector in Gaza perfectly illustrates why its claim that it no longer bears responsibility for the residents and affairs in Gaza is divorced from reality”. It added: “The fact is that Israel continues to control many aspects of life in Gaza, at times from afar, and sometimes on the ground”.