Israel announced yesterday that it would return 65 confiscated fishing boats to fishermen in the Gaza Strip, the Wafa news agency reported.
This comes after NGOs Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, Adalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights filed a petition on behalf of Gaza fisherman Abdel Ma'ati Habil whose boat was confiscated by the Israeli occupation's navy in September 2016.
The petition was submitted after the Israeli military agreed to return Habil's boat by land and at his own expense, without mention of what happened with the fishing equipment which was on board when it was confiscated.
Gisha, Adalah, and Al-Mezan demanded that the Supreme Court order the Israeli military to immediately and unconditionally return Halabi's fishing boat and equipment, as well as all other boats seized by the occupation belonging to Gaza fishermen.
In its preliminary response to the petition, the state said that it intended to "work within the next several months to return the boat to the Gaza Strip, as well as the other fishing boats from the Gaza Strip that were seized by the navy… in accordance with security and political considerations and in line with a security assessment."
"Israel routinely seizes boats from fishermen in Gaza and holds them for months, even years, without any legal authority and in violation of international law," said Gisha Attorney Muna Haddad, according to Wafa.
She added: "While Israel claims it seizes boats following violations of its restrictions on the fishing zone – restrictions which Israel imposes and changes arbitrarily – this does not justify such severe harm to the livelihood and property of fishermen and their families."
"The state's response to the petition implies it will do all that it can to avoid a clear court ruling that may have brought about an end to these punitive and illegal practices whose only purpose is to intimidate fishermen in Gaza."