By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
AL SHUDANIYYA, Gaza – The Israeli navy reportedly shelled several Palestinian fishing boats near the Gaza coast, according a report by the International Middle East Media Center on November 29. No injuries were reported.
An Israeli army spokesperson said that the boats had “violated security boundaries off the coast of the Gaza Strip… out of the permitted fishing zone.”
This incident was the latest in a series between the Israeli navy and Palestinian fishermen. Earlier in November, one Palestinian fisherman was moderately injured after being shot in the stomach by Israeli naval officers while fishing off of the Gaza city of Rafah.
The 1993 Oslo Peace Accords set a Palestinian fishing range of nearly twenty nautical miles off the coast of Gaza. Since 1993, however, the Israeli navy has reduced the allowable fishing zone to three nautical miles. After the shooting near Rafah in November, Israel told CNN that it has made the zone smaller as a security precaution, in an effort to cut down on weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip, as well as to prevent attacks by Hamas from sea. Since the fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas last winter, the Israeli navy has imposed a formal blockade on the region. The Gaza Strip lies along the Mediterranean Sea, and is approximately twice the size of the United States capital, Washington D.C.
The restricted zone poses serious problems for the nearly 3,500 Palestinian fishermen forced to stay within an area of seventy-five square miles. The Israeli blockade has made it difficult for Gaza fishermen to repair their nets and equipment. Additionally, it is often difficult for fisherman to tell whether they are in the shifting boundaries.
The fishing zone is severely overfished, and the small daily catches contribute to the persistent economic depression in the Gaza Strip.
“Once we risked going a little further as there were no fish,” said one fishing captain. “We tried to cross the border a little but the Israeli navy came and started shooting at us… we had to leave the area.”
For more information, please see:
Press TV – Israeli Navy Shells Palestinian Fishing Boats – 30 November 2009
International Middle East Media Center – Israeli Navy Shells Palestinian Fishing Boats – 29 November 2009
CNN – Fishermen Trawl Under Israeli Navy Scrutiny – 10 November 2009
Ma’an News Agency – Ministry: Gaza Fisherman Shot by Israeli Navy – 4 November 2009