21 June 2011, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) received a
response from the prosecutor of the Israeli Naval Force with regard to 3
complaints that had been submitted by PCHR on behalf of Palestinian fishermen
whose fishing boats were confiscated and are being held by IOF. The response stated that the fishing boats would
only be released if the owners, and those who were operating the boats when
they were confiscated, "comply with security restrictions at sea off Gaza
shores and to instructions given by the Israeli military and refrain from breaching
the said security restrictions or instructions."
response went on to say that that new procedures would be applicable to every
boat that may be seized while sailing in the restricted zone in the future by
the Israeli Naval Force. According to
these new procedures, the "breaching" persons, or owners and
operators, of confiscated fishing boats will be required to pay the expenses of
returning the boats, including expenses for shipping the boats and transporting
them via land crossings. These "breaching"
owners will also be required to coordinate the return of their boats with a
shipping company that needs to be approved by the Israeli Ministry of “Defense."
January 2011, Israeli forces seized two Palestinian fishing boats owned by
Palestinian civilians from Gaza City. A third boat was confiscated from a
Palestinian civilian from Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, in April
2011. The boats were confiscated under the pretext that the boats violated
security restrictions and sailed in restricted zones. The Israeli Navy also arrested the fishermen
on board. They questioned them and later
released them. But the boats were not released.
submitted three separate complaints on behalf of the owners of the seized boats.
In these complaints, PCHR demanded the legal
advisor of the Naval Force and the Compensation Officer to release the boats.
should be noted that in 2009, Israeli forces restricted the fishing zone where
Gaza fishermen can fish to three nautical miles from the original 20 nautical
miles established in the Oslo Accords. These
restrictions are part of the policy of collective punishment imposed by Israel
against the Palestinian civilians. The
Israeli measures against Palestinian fishermen, which have been in place for years,
have resulted in a lot of property damage and financial loss for Gazan
fishermen. These losses have come from
the loss of fish due to restrictions on where they can fish and damage to fishing
boats and equipment. Israeli forces have
continued to target Palestinian fishermen at sea and committed many violations
against them including shooting at them, arresting them and holding and
destroying fishing boats and equipment.
Legal Aid Unit has followed up 19 cases in which Israeli forces held or heavily
damaged Palestinian fishing boats. These
new conditions and procedures by the Israeli Naval Force will inflict further
financial burdens on Palestinian fishermen. These measures will also place more obstacles
against attempts to provide remedy Palestinian fishermen for damage incurred to
their boats or for restrictions imposed on their work at sea.