Israeli and Palestinian rights groups have called on the Israeli Navy to stop its "military attacks" on Palestinian fishermen and fishing boats in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli rights groups Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, Adalah – Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel jointly and the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights highlighted in a statement the Israeli violations against fishermen.
"In recent weeks, the Israeli navy has increasingly used violent enforcement measures at sea, with incidents of fire on fishermen off the coast of Gaza rising by 70 percent in April compared to January-March 2020," the statement said.
"The use of live fire threatens fishermen's lives and causes severe damage to boats and equipment," they explained.
"All this against the backdrop of great economic uncertainty and increased concern for the well-being and food security of Gaza's civilian population given the measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19."
In this regard, the three NGOs sent an urgent letter to Israel's attorney general and military advocate general, demanding they order the military to put an "immediate end to the harassment of fishermen and investigate past incidents".
They pointed out that
the violence with which the military enforces the maritime closure on Gaza as a matter of routine includes measures such as unrestrained use of live fire, submerging of boats, degrading treatment of fishermen, seizure of boats and damage to equipment.
In the statement, the NGOs cited a report by Al Mezan stating that "105 incidents of Israeli navy fire at Gaza fishing boats were recorded in the first four months of 2020; six fishermen were wounded, and seven others were arrested, including a minor."
The report by Al Mezan also stated that "seven boats sustained severe damage, large quantities of fishing equipment were destroyed and one boat was seized," in the same period.
The groups concluded that "Israel's restrictions on access to Gaza fishing zone, frequent changes it makes to its demarcation and the violent enforcement methods it employs thwart the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen in Gaza, undermining what was once an important sector in the Strip's economy."