Israel Shot at Gaza Fishermen 5 Times in First 7 Days of March, Killing 1, Injuring 2

This article is published in Mondoweiss.

Israeli forces shot at Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza on 7 March, killing one, a man by the name of Tawfiq Abu Riyala. Two fishers were also arrested.

Associated Press implied that it was not a purposeful attack on the part of Israel, and that the innocent fisherman was to blame for his own death, writing “It was not clear how the fisherman ended up in the line of fire.”

Such an attack on defenseless, unsuspecting fishermen is not uncommon, however. Not by any means.

According to the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, since the summer 2014 ceasefire agreement, in at least 10 incidents, Israel has injured 17 Palestinian fishers and detained 49 more. It has also confiscated 12 boats and damaged fishing tools.

Just two days before this attack, on 5 March, in fact, Israeli forces shot at Gazan fishers, critically injuring and hospitalizing two. They then arrested three more.

The day before, on 4 March, Gazan fishermen again enduring gunfire.

Two days before this attack, on 2 March, Israel shot at Gaza fishermen.

On the previous day, on 1 March, Israeli forces once again attacked fishers.

The Gaza areas restricted for Palestinian access, as of July 2012 CREDIT: UN

The Gaza areas restricted for Palestinian access, as of July 2012

The Oslo Accords ruled that Gazans would be able to fish up to 20 nautical miles off of the coast. The UN indicates that, in violation of this agreement, Gaza fishers are allowed access to only six of these, just 30% of what the accords dictated.

In reality, Gaza fishermen can only fish within three nautical miles (10% of what they are legally guaranteed), as Israeli sea buffer zones constitute 85% of what was designated Palestinian in the Oslo Accords.

Water within these three nautical miles also happens to be the most polluted of all. The UN says approximately 90 million
litres of untreated or partially treated sewage flow into the Mediterranean Sea, off of the Gazan coast, every single day.

Since 1999, annual fish yield in Gaza has dropped by almost 50%, according to UN estimates. Meanwhile, poverty and hunger are on the rise. Because of Israel’s illegal blockage on the Gaza strip, the UN estimates 57% of Gaza households were food insecure, as of July 2013. The figure is likely even higher now.



In a conservative estimate, the UN calculated five Palestinian fishermen were killed and 25 injured by Israeli naval forces from June 2007 to July 2013. 214 more Palestinians were killed, including at least 127 civilians, and 825 injured, including at least 761 civilians, in the “access restricted areas” (ARA) on land in this same period.

As part of the negotiations following Israel’s 51-day summer 2014 attack on Gaza, codenamed Operation “Protective Edge”—which left 2,310 Palestinians dead, around 70% civilians, including circa 500 children—Israel claimed it would allow Gazans to fish up to six nautical miles from the coast (still less than one-third of what was legally guaranteed in the Oslo Accords). This was a concession based on one of Hamas’ 10 basic, life-affirming conditions, almost all of which are mandated under international law.

At the end of January, however, Israel reneged on the ceasefire and shot at fishers who were within this promised six-nautical-mile limit.