‘Israel and its leaders do not shy from boasting about committing war crimes, even while being scrutinized by the International Criminal Court.
Multiple times last year, COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, announced that it was collectively punishing Palestinian fishers by restricting access to Gaza’s coastal waters.
In four cases, it banned Gaza fishers from sailing altogether.
Israel announced changes in access to Gaza’s coastal waters 20 times last year. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has treated the Gaza fishing industry as “a lever for pressure” on the two million Palestinians living in the territory, which has been under Israeli economic blockade since 2007.
The punishment of a civilian population over acts for which they bear no responsibility is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel has ratified.
But Al Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza, says that the true aim of Israel’s restrictions on and violence against fishers is the destruction of the fishing sector altogether.
Traditionally a cornerstone of Gaza’s economy, the fishing industry has shrunk in recent years. Some 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza were employed in the industry in the year 2000. There are only some 2,000 fishing regularly today.
Al Mezan recorded 351 violations against Gaza fishers in 2019.
There were 347 instances of Israel opening fire towards Gaza fishers last year, causing 16 injuries.
One fisher, Khaled Saidi, was shot with multiple rubber-coated metal bullets while at sea in February last year and Israeli forces detained him.
Saidi’s right eye was removed in an Israeli hospital, and he was soon released back to Gaza. But he was not permitted to re-enter Israel for treatment to his left eye, which was also injured, despite having an appointment at an Israeli hospital.
He eventually traveled to Cairo for treatment. Doctors there were unable to repair the injury to his remaining eye.’