ISRAELI NAVAL VESSELS FIRING ON UNARMED FISHING BOATS
AND HUMAN RIGHTS WORKERS
(OFF THE COAST OF GAZA) 1 September 2008 - Israeli Naval vessels are
currently firing on unamrmed Palestinian fishing boats and
international human rights workers off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
The fishing boats are several miles off the coast of Gaza City, in
Palestinian territorial waters. As of 11am (4am EST) no one had been
injured, but live ammunition is still being fired in the direction
of the civilian boats.
The unarmed boats went to sea at dawn this morning, in an attempt to
fish in their own water. Six international human rights workers from
five different countries accompanied the fishermen in the hopes that
their presence would deter the Israeli military from firing on the
fishermen. In the past the Israeli military has shot and killed
unarmed Palestinian fishermen for trying to fish in their own waters.
Accompanying the fishermen are:
Vittorio Arrigoni, Italy
Georgios Karatzas, Greece
Adam Qvist, Denmark
Andrew Muncie, Scotland
Donna Wallach, USA
Darlene Wallach, USA
PLEASE INFORM THE MEDIA IMMEDIATELY, CALL YOUR EMBASSIES IN TEL
AVIV, AND CALL THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT. TELL THEM TO STOP FIRING UPON
UNARMED FISHERMEN AND UNARMED HUMAN RIGHTS MONITORS.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tel. +972 2 530 3111
The British Embassy in Tel Aviv
+972 3 725 1222
The US Embassy in Tel Aviv
+972 2 625 5755
HUMAN RIGHTS WORKERS TO ACCOMPANY GAZA FISHERMEN ON MONDAY
For more information, please contact:
(Gaza) Vittorio Arrigoni, +972 598 826 516
(Gaza) Donna Wallach, +972 598 896 420 / FriendsOfGaza@...
(Cyprus) Osama Qashoo, +357 97 793 595 / OsamaQashoo@...
GAZA CITY (1 September 2008) - Human Rights Observers from the Free
Gaza Movement and the International Solidarity Movement launch
campaign to monitor Israeli naval aggression against Gazan fishermen.
According to a recent article in The Guardian, "Under the Oslo
accords, which in 1993 were supposed to herald the coming of an
independent Palestinian state, Gazan fishermen were to be allowed 20
nautical miles out to sea, where they could catch sardine as they
migrated from the Nile delta up towards Turkey during the spring.
But Israeli naval ships in recent years have imposed their own, much-
reduced limits, sometimes fewer than 6 miles out." Israel enforces
these arbitrary limits with lethal violence. Many fishermen have
either been killed or injured as a result.
Just 3 days ago 4 such fishermen were attacked and "arrested" by
This Monday morning, human rights workers from the Free Gaza
Movement will accompany fishermen from Gaza City as they venture out
to assert their right to fish their own coastal waters. The aim of
these internationals will be to record and document the continued
harassment of the Palestinian fishermen, and the arbitrary attacks
and threats to which they are subjected. It is hoped that their
presence will also act as some form of deterent to these abuses.
The scope of the campaign extends beyond Gaza City all the way along
Gaza's coast. Human Rights Workers may be present on any Gazan
fishing boat, at any time from this point onward. The boats on which
they are present will not be specially marked.
FREE GAZA & LIBERTY ARRIVE IN CYPRUS
WITH PALESTINIANS ON-BOARD
FREE GAZA MOVEMENT announces the arrival at 20:30 (10:30am PDT),
Friday 29 August, 2008 of the FREE GAZA and LIBERTY vessels, in
Larnaca Harbour, returning from Gaza, and a successful end to this
first of such missions.
The historic return voyage represents the first time ever that
Palestinians have been able freely to enter and leave their
country. The Free Gaza Movement will mark this historic moment with
a reception at Larnaca Harbour , as will Palestinians in Gaza , as
both boats return safely from Gazan and international waters after a
calm and uneventful crossing.
Organiser Paul Larudee: "This endeavour has been a huge success,
far more significant and wide-reaching than anyone ever dreamt it
could be. It has had obvious beneficial effects on the Palestinian
people, but also on Israel . In fairness, credit must go where
credit is due -- despite threats or obstacles, a responsible
decision was made by Israeli authorities not to interfere with our
mission and this is a model for the future."
As reported by the world press, news has travelled worldwide of the
Free Gaza Movement. Supportive messages have come in, including
from UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the OPT, Richard Falk,
"The landing of two wooden boats carrying 46 human rights activists
in Gaza is an important symbolic victory. This non-violent
initiative of the Free Gaza Movement focused attention around the
world on the stark reality that the 1.5 million residents of Gaza
have endured a punitive siege for more than a year. This siege is a
form of collective punishment that constitutes a massive violation
of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The siege, the
coastal blockade, and overflights by Israeli aircraft all bear
witness to the fact that despite Israel's claimed `disengagement' in
2005, these realities on the ground establish that Gaza remains
under Israeli occupation, and as a result Israel remains legally
responsible for protecting the human rights of its civilian
population. By severely restricting the entry of food, fuel, and
medicine the economic and social rights of the people of Gaza have
been systematically violated. There is widespread deafness among the
people of Gaza that is blamed on the frequent sonic booms produced
by over-flying Israeli military aircraft. For this reason the peace
boats brought 200 hearing aids to Gaza."
Mr. Falk strongly urged the international community to take action
to uphold human rights in the Gaza Strip.
"Above all, what is being tested is whether the imaginative
engagement of dedicated private citizens can influence the struggle
of a beleaguered people for basic human rights, and whether their
courage and commitment can awaken the conscience of humanity to an
Or, in the words of Palestinian voyager, Musheir El-Farra,
originally born and raised in Khan Younis in Gaza but currently
living in Sheffield , UK :
"For the first time in my life, I went to Gaza without being
humiliated, without having to ask Israel for permission. We did
it. We finally did it. And now others must join us and do it as
Net Tightens Around the Fishermen
By Nora Barrows-Friedman
Inter Press Service
When the broiling sun sinks behind the rolling Mediterranean sea in
Gaza, hundreds of fishing boats turn on their motors and assemble
ragged nets to round up the evening catch. Flickering blue lights
scatter across the shallow seas as the boats gather offshore in
close quarters. Mackerel, sardine and grey mullet are caught in nets
and dumped into plastic crates to be sold in the street markets. But
under severe military occupation dominating the Gaza strip, it has
become increasingly difficult to make a living as a Gaza fisherman.
Since the Israeli-imposed sanctions against Gaza began in June 2007,
extreme pressure intended to further isolate the democratically-
elected Hamas leadership has resulted in massive fuel shortages and
a near-total collapse of basic economic infrastructure. Factories
have had to shut their doors, and all exports have ground to a halt
as a result of the blockade policy.
Electricity across Gaza is intermittent, and sewage treatment plants
are having to cut back their processing schedules, or abandon
operations altogether. Millions of gallons of raw sewage are being
dumped, therefore, into the sea, creating serious health risks at a
time when hospitals and clinics across the Gaza strip are also
suffering medicine and equipment shortages due to the Israeli
IPS reporter Mohammed Omer first documented the siege against the
Gazan fishing economy in early May. Since that report, the fuel
crisis has further tightened, and Palestinians now use rationed
cooking gas or falafel oil to fuel their cars, generators and
The once-clogged streets inside Gaza are now almost emptied of
vehicles. For most consumers who can afford petrol, the lines are
long, and the local Hamas government mandates strict rations.
As the economic blockade persists, its devastating effects continue
to reverberate across all civil sectors.
Mohammed Matar is a fisherman living in Nuseirat refugee camp in the
centre of the Gaza strip. His boat, a simple blue and red vessel
named al-Doktoora (the Doctor), is running out of fuel to operate
its small motor. As IPS has reported, spare parts are difficult to
acquire, and even extra netting is almost impossible to find at a
reasonable price anywhere in Gaza.
Compounded by severe restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation
policy in Gazan territorial waters, in which fishermen are assaulted
by Israeli naval ships and attack helicopters if they venture past
six miles offshore, Matar faces serious challenges to keep his
family financially afloat.
"I come here every morning at 2.30am to launch my boat," Matar tells
IPS. "I collect the nets, hopefully full of fish. At 5.30pm, and
again at 10.30pm, I throw my nets again. It's a hard life. In the
end, it depends on the climate of the sea and the Israeli siege as
well. Sometimes they prohibit all the fishermen from going out into
"It's a part of their policy towards the entire Gaza strip," Matar
continues. "They use 'security' as the blanket justification. If we
were allowed to enter into the international waters, the Gazan sea,
we could fish for tuna, bass, and other large fish. Fishing would be
a very lucrative job for us."
A once vibrant fishing economy, in which the annual net worth of
Gaza's fish industry once pulled in nearly 10 million dollars a year
before the 2006 democratic election of Hamas and subsequent
international blockade, is now floundering.
Physician and human rights worker Dr. Mona al-Farra of the
Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Gaza tells IPS that Gaza has
historically been centred around its fishing industry. "Now that's
not a reality any more. If (the fishermen) need spare parts, like
nets and rods, if the boat engines need fixing, what can they do?
Nothing is allowed to come into Gaza. It's nearly impossible these
days to make a sustainable living. This Israeli policy affects 8,000
Gazan fisherman, and 40,000 people altogether -- the families that
depend on this industry and are suffering because of the (Israeli)
The 1.5 million Palestinians hermetically sealed inside the Gaza
strip are being condemned to an encroaching, widespread humanitarian
disaster, according to Dr. al-Farra. She says that Israel lets in
just enough fuel and supplies to keep people on the brink, and then
begins a new wave of cut-offs and restrictions. And the fishing
industry shows how the broad-based siege affects the entire Gazan
"The psychology of the people has changed incredibly," al-Farra
tells IPS. "It's demoralising to these fishermen not to be able to
fish. We helped (Mohammed Matar) purchase a new boat and new
supplies. But it's expensive, comparatively speaking.
"I want to help all the Gazan citizens to work independently and not
to have to depend on foreign aid. If Gazans are dependent solely on
foreign aid, this completely demoralises the people. This is one of
the goals of the occupation -- to make the Palestinian people
dependent on the crumbs that are given to them. If there is no
change in the political situation, nothing will help us reach our
goal of independence."
IPS asks Matar why he comes to the beach every day even though
making a living is a challenge these days. "Sometimes we meet
dolphins in the sea. They come and play with us. They're not a
danger. I love sitting here, looking at the waves. The sea teaches
me how to be patient."
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