Israeli Navy Again Opens Fire On Gazan Fishermen
International Solidarity Movement
On Sunday 12th October, the Israeli navy again opened fire on Gazan fishermen who were being accompanied by international Human Rights Observers.
This is yet another example of what has been shown by internationals accompanying the fishermen of Gaza to be a daily occurrence that amounts to regular violations of the recent ceasefire.
This Sunday the 12th October 2008, the Israeli navy continued its violent harassment of Palestinian fishermen. A fleet of seven fishing boats from the port in Gaza City initially spotted two Israeli gunboats operating in Palestinian territorial waters at 08:45. The gunboats began circling some of the fishing boats at the rear of the fleet, and demanding that they turn around and head back towards Gaza City. Some minutes later one of these gunboats opened fire with a deck mounted machine gun – none of the fishing boats were however hit.
By 10:30 the fishermen and some of the six Human Rights Observers (HROs) present on their boats observed a large Israeli naval vessel quickly approaching from their rear. Reaching the two fishing boats at the back of the fishing fleet, the Israeli boat then proceeded to mount two sustained attacks on them with a high powered water cannon. It also opened fire with a machine gun during one of these attacks. It was unclear what the intended target of the machine gun fire was. The wheelhouse of one of the fishing boats did however sustain significant damage – several wooden panels were either punctured or ripped from their framework by the water cannon.
The Israeli vessel, upon reaching a further four fishing boats that were hauling in their nets, began assaulting them with the water cannon. The jet from the water cannon knocked one o the HROs off their feet, propelled them across the deck and almost into the sea. As a result of this attack the nets of three of the fishing boats became entangled with each other. Despite the obvious difficulty these boats were now in, the Israeli vessel continued its assault with the water cannon.
For the next several hours, the large Israeli vessel continued its series of attacks on the Palestinian fishing boats. As a result, the windows of two of the fishing boats were broken. One fishing boat sustained further damage to its wheelhouse.
No one was seriously injured on this occasion by the Israeli water cannon. It should be noted however that the use of this weapon against civilian fishing boats, severely endangers the safety of all those on- board. Clearly, there is a significant risk of someone being swept overboard, or sustaining severe injury by either being propelled into some object on board, or having some object propelled into them. In recent weeks the lower back of an Italian HRO was badly lacerated after a water cannon shattered a window in the wheelhouse in which he was standing, and propelled the glass shards at him.
40,000 people in Gaza make a living from the fishing industry, yet this community has been decimated by Israeli restrictions on fishing rights and the prevention of fuel from reaching the Gaza Strip.
According to the Fishing Syndicate in Gaza, fishermen need 40,000 litres of fuel and 40,000 litres of natural gas each day to operate throughout the high fishing season.
Starting in April each year, there is a migration of fish from the Nile Delta to Turkish waters which Palestinian fishermen have traditionally relied upon. Yet Israel limits fishing 6 miles from the Gaza shore and regularly attacks those who venture further than 3 miles - over 70 fishermen were arrested last year by the Israeli forces. The large schools that form the migration are usually found 10 miles from shore. The average catch of fish was over 3000 tons a year in the 1990's, now it is around 500 tons directly due to the Israeli siege of Gaza.
Not only this, but the brutal effects of the siege, the water in which the fishermen of Gaza sail in is now receiving 50 million litres of sewage per day because the people of Gaza have no alternative.
The International Solidarity Movement has recently announced the re- establishment of ISM Rafah. Internationals will continue to accompany fishermen attempting to continue their livelihood that is being destroyed by the Israeli siege and occupation.
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is a Palestinian-led non-violent resistance movement committed to ending Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land. We call for full compliance with all relevant UN resolutions and international law.