The term “buffer zone” in land and at sea is used for land and sea areas, which were unilaterally and illegally declared by Israeli forces as areas with no access along the eastern and northern borders and in the Gaza Strip sea following the Israeli Disengagement Plan in 2005. In violation of the provisions of the international humanitarian law, the Gaza Strip’s population are denied access to their property in the “buffer zone” in land while the fishermen are prevented from sailing and fishing in the “buffer zone” at sea.[1]

Field updates from the buffer zone indicate that Israeli forces have escalated their attacks against the Palestinian civilians, including farmers and fishermen, and prevented them from safe and free access to their lands and fishing areas. This constitutes a violation of their rights according to the international human rights standards, including their right to security, personal safety and protection of their property, their right to work, the right to adequate standard of living, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

According to PCHR’s field observations, the area of the buffer zone at sea and land is subject to arbitrary expansions and limitations. In early April 2019, Israeli forces announced the expansion of the fishing area within the Gaza Sea between 6 -15 nautical miles. The expansion of the fishing area was as follows:

  • From Waha area, northern Gaza Strip – Gaza City sea port: 6 nautical miles;
  • Gaza Sea port – Gaza Valley: 12 nautical miles;
  • Gaza Valley – Northern Khan Younis: 15 nautical miles;
  • Southern Khan Younis – Rafah southern border: 12 nautical miles.

On 30 April 2019, Israeli forces informed Palestinians that the fishing area was reduced again to 6 nautical miles across the Gaza Sea. Also, Israel imposed a 5-day complete ban on fishing and access to the sea from 13 – 18 June 2019. Afterwards, fishing was allowed at 6 nautical miles from the northern Gaza Strip up to the Gaza City sea; and at 10 nautical miles from Gaza Valley up to Rafah. On 28 June 2019, Israeli forces re-expanded the fishing area to 15 nautical miles in the central Gaza Strip and 9 nautical miles in its north and south.

In 2014, Israeli naval forces announced expanding the fishing area to 6 nautical miles, in the aftermath of the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinian armed groups which was brokered by the Egyptian government after the 2014 Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip. However, the Israeli naval forces have not allowed fishermen to sail up to this limit, as all the Israeli naval attacks that were documented by PCHR occurred within less than 6 nautical miles. On 07 March 2015, the Israeli naval forces declared via speakers that the allowed fishing area reduced to 4 nautical miles and warned Palestinian fishermen from approaching this area along the Gaza Sea. On 01 April 2016, the Israeli authorities expanded the fishing area from 6 to 9 nautical miles between the areas from Gaza valley to the southern Gaza Strip, while denied access to more than 6 miles in the other areas. On 03 May 2017, the Israeli authorities allowed fishermen to fish up to 9 nautical miles, instead of 6 nautical miles in the southern and northern Gaza sea.

Additionally, following the ceasefire agreement post the November 2012 Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces expanded the fishing area at the Gaza sea from 3 to 6 nautical miles. . On 21 March 2013, the Israeli forces announced re-reducing the fishing area allowed for Palestinian fishermen from 6 nautical miles to 3. The same announcement also included the re-expansion of the “buffer zone” in land to 300 meters. However, on 21 May 2013, the Israeli authorities decided to allow fishermen to sail up to 6 nautical miles. However, there is conflict over the Access Restricted Area (ARA) in land, which increases the risks endured by the Palestinian civilians. In a statement on his official website, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) declared that fishermen could now access the sea up to 6 nautical miles offshore, and that farmers could now access lands in the border area up to 100 meters from the border fence. However, both references have since been removed from the statement, which obviously indicates the Israeli forces retreated their commitment to the abovementioned ceasefire.

Attacks

September 2019

Attacks Total “Buffer zone” on land “Buffer zone” at sea
Shelling 0 0 0
Shooting 380 361 19
Incursions 6 6 0
Land levelling 0 0 0
Detention incidents 3 3 0
Total incidents 389 370 19

Consequences of attacks

  1. Deaths and injuries

September 2019

Consequences Total “Buffer zone” on land “Buffer zone” at sea
Killings 3 3 0
Minors 2 2 0
Women 0 0 0
Injury of civilians 356 356 0
Minors 129 129 0
Women 8 8 0
  1. Property related violations

September 2019

Consequences Total “Buffer zone” on land “Buffer zone” at sea
Property damaged 0 0 0
Property confiscated 0 0 0
Dunums razed 0 0 0

 

  1. Arrests

 

September 2019

Consequences Total “Buffer zone” on land “Buffer zone” at sea
Total arrests 5 5 0
Minors detained 2 2 0
Women detained 0 0 0

 Note:

  • Two arrests took place at Erez (Beit Hanoun) Crossing.

[1] The buffer zone area varies from time to time according to the Israeli forces declarations, without taking in consideration the international law that bans any changes to the occupied territories. According to Israeli forces instructions, the “buffer zone” extends to an area ranging between 100 to 1,500 meters in some eastern land borders, while ranges between 3 to 9 nautical miles in the Gaza Strip sea.