Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip experience systematic difficulties practicing their livelihood due to restrictions on their right to work and persistent exposure to ill-treatment. Gaza’s fishermen endure constant harassment, arrest and detention, shooting and confiscation of fishing boats and equipment by the Israeli navy. These attacks are completely unwarranted, violate the fishermen’s rights, and compound the dire conditions of the fishing community in the Gaza Strip, 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line.
Despite the Oslo Accords affording Palestinian fishermen 20 nautical miles of fishing grounds, the Israeli authorities use live fire to enforce a fluctuating ‘permitted fishing zone’ and sometimes prohibit fishing entirely. By mid-2019, the Israeli authorities had imposed a full maritime closure three times since the start of the year and changed the demarcation of the fishing zone 15 times. These practices hinder the work of fishermen in Palestinian territorial waters and restrict their enjoyment of Palestine’s natural resources. Preventing the fishing community from working safely and freely stifles what would otherwise be a viable sector in the Palestinian economy. The fishing community, once prosperous, is now one of the poorest communities in Gaza.
The Israeli policy towards fishermen reflects a continuous pattern of collective punishment. The size of the fishing zone is determined by Israeli authorities and is often reduced or closed entirely at the whim of the occupying power, in violation of international humanitarian law and the rights of fishermen.
The fact sheet discusses the violation of fishermen’s rights in terms of human and material losses incurred by the community and their effect on the sector, and recent improvements in Israel’s return policy of its illegally confiscated fishing boats—enabled through Al Mezan’s legal action.