Gaza, ALRAY - Palestinian fishermen along the Mediterranean coast in southern Palestine's Gaza Strip face daily assaults from Israeli naval forces, often enduring multiple attacks in a single day, according to Palestinian observers. These relentless and recurrent attacks are now jeopardizing the fishing profession, forcing fishermen to abandon their livelihoods in various ways.
Israeli occupation authorities have been employing a range of tactics to restrict the activities of Palestinian fishermen, severely impacting their access to the sea. These measures include a maritime blockade, physical attacks, and the confiscation of fishing equipment.
Gaza fishing sector expert Zakaria Baker stated, "The Israeli occupation intentionally tightens the noose around fishermen through various means, including the naval blockade, physical assaults, and the prevention of fishing equipment imports." He emphasized that there is a systematic campaign by Israeli naval forces aimed at pushing fishermen out of the sea or confining them to coastal areas.
Baker believes that Israel's goal is to impose new restrictions or expand restricted access zones, extending northwards by at least 2.5 nautical miles from the 2006 limit. This tightening of restrictions is depriving fishermen of access to the fertile and fish-rich areas, such as the waters off the coast of Gaza City and its northern borders, an area spanning no more than 6 nautical miles.
He highlighted that these restrictions are depriving fishermen of access to the strategic stock of the Gaza coastal region, which boasts diverse terrain, including soft rocks, reefs, and seagrass beds, all of which support the proliferation of various fish species.
According to Baker, since the beginning of the year, Israeli naval forces have carried out around 230 shooting incidents towards Palestinian fishermen in the open sea, resulting in 18 Palestinian fishermen sustaining various injuries. During this period, 30 fishermen have been arrested, 12 fishing boats have been confiscated, and 7 boats partially destroyed, along with the destruction of nets on 20 boats.
Samir Zaqout, Deputy Director of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, stated, "Israeli violations against fishermen range from opening fire on them to pursuing and arresting them, causing injuries, and seizing their boats and equipment." He warned of Israel's continued prohibition on the entry of essential equipment required for maritime fishing in Gaza, within the framework of its tight blockade on the territory.
Zaqout urged the international community to intervene to protect civilians, halt organized Israeli violations against them, especially against fishermen, release detained fishermen, release confiscated fishing boats, and return all fishing equipment and tools. He stressed the necessity of lifting the blockade imposed on Gaza, including the maritime blockade, compensating fishermen, and providing restitution for their losses during periods of unemployment due to Israeli violations.