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Jul-15-2011 02:22printcomments

Israel Fires on Two Americans off Gaza Coast

With Vittorio Arrigoni out of the way, Israel increases attacks on Gaza fishing boats.

Israeli boat attacks Americans off Gaza coast
Photo by Noor Ahmed

(GAZA) - Two Americans are among those rescued after Israeli naval forces attacked unarmed Palestinian boats for the second consecutive day. Israel's attacks on unarmed fishing crews who are hard pressed to earn a living, are on the rise.

Dozens of Gaza fishermen have been killed over the years by the Israeli navy which has no apparent rules against attacking civilians.

Fighting and exposing this behavior to the international community was something Gaza Activist Vittorio Arrigoni took very seriously, as we have detailed in previous reports.

Sadly, he was Murdered in April in Gaza and now no voice with his reach is there to resist Israel's military acts which are illegal under international law, even if approved by the Israeli Knesset.

We reported Wednesday that the Civil Peace Service for Gaza (CPSGAZA) human rights monitoring boat was attacked. (see: Israeli Warplanes Attack Rafah by Air - Israeli Navy Strikes Unarmed Fishermen by Sea)

Noor Ahmed told Salem-News the sustained attack, which is recorded on video, involved the use of water cannons that spray cold water at high velocity.

The Gaza CPS boat was attacked for a second day in a row by Israeli naval forces, and was threatened for the first time with lethal force, the group said in a press statement on Thursday.

CPS stated in an article, Gaza rights monitors come under Israeli attack by Bikya Masr:

At approximately 8:15 a.m., two Israeli gunboats approached the Oliva as it cruised within the three-nautical mile fishing zone unilaterally imposed and enforced by Israeli forces.

After circling it several times, they opened fire on it with water cannons, nearly filling it with water in an apparent attempt to sink it.

Two United States crew members and the Palestinian captain were rescued from the vessel, in imminent danger of capsizing, by a small fishing boat, which transported them to a nearby trawler.

One of the warships then circled the trawler for nearly an hour, firing water cannons at it and taunting its fishing crew over its loudspeaker with cries of, "Where are your fish? Show me your fish!

The warship eventually departed, after an amplified warning that if it returned to the sea, the Israeli navy would shoot both Palestinian fishermen and international human rights observers.

"Such behavior and threats towards unarmed international observers clearly demonstrates an attempt to hide the ongoing crimes of an illegal blockade," said Alexandra Robinson, a United States citizen and CPSGAZA crew member who experienced the attack.

Civil Peace Service Gaza is an international third party non-violent initiative to monitor potential human rights violations in Gazan territorial waters.

Restrictions on the fishing zone are of considerable significance to Palestinian livelihood. Initially 20 nautical miles, it is presently often enforced between 1.5 – 2 nautical miles. The marine ‘buffer zone’ restricts Gazan fishermen from accessing 85 percent of Gaza’s fishing waters agreed to by Oslo.

During the Oslo Accords, specifically under the Gaza-Jericho Agreement of 1994, representatives of Palestine agreed to 20 nautical miles for fishing access. In 2002, then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan empowered Catherine Bertini to negotiate with Israel on key issues regarding the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and a 12 nautical mile fishing limit was agreed upon. In June 2006, following the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit near the crossing of Kerem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom), the navy imposed a complete sea blockade for several months. When the complete blockade was finally lifted, Palestinian fishermen found that a 6 nautical mile limit was being enforced. When Hamas gained political control of the Gaza Strip, the limit was reduced to 3 nautical miles. During the massive assault on the Strip in 2008-2009, a complete blockade was again declared. After Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli army began imposing a 1.5 – 2 nautical miles.

The fishing community is often similarly targeted as the farmers in the ‘buffer zone’ and the fishing limit is enforced with comparable aggression, with boats shot at or rammed as near as 2nm to the Gazan coast by Israeli gunboats.

The fishermen have been devastated, directly affecting an estimated 65,000 people and reducing the catch by 90 percent. The coastal areas are now grossly over-fished and 2/3 of fishermen have left the industry since 2000.

Recent statistics of the General Union of Fishing Workers indicate that the direct losses since the second Intifada in September 2000 were estimated at a million dollars and the indirect losses were estimated at 13.25 million dollars during the same period. The 2009 fishing catch amounted to a total of 1,525 metric tones, only 53 percent of the amount during 2008 (2,845 metric tones) and 41 percent of the amount in 1999 (3,650 metric tones), when the fishermen of Gaza could still fish up to ten nautical miles from the coast. Current figures indicate that during 2010 the decline in the fishing catch continues. This has caused an absurd arrangement to become standard practice. The fisherman sail out not to fish, but to buy fish off of Egyptian boats and then sell this fish in Gaza. According to the Fishermen’s Union, a monthly average of 105 tons of fish has been entering Gaza through the tunnels since the beginning of 2010.

Hama Waqum with CPSGAZA wrote Israeli ship attacks international solidarity boat crew off Gaza coast for Mondoweiss, which was published on the CPSGAZA Website:

Although the attack was challenging for those of us who experienced it, it is essential to remember that this an everyday occurrence for Gazan fishermen. Earlier that very day, the boat of one fisherman was shot at repeatedly. There were too many bullet holes in the bow of his boat for me to count. His netting cables were shot through and he lost his catch. I’m sure he must have been fishing for grenades or something, right? Whereas I returned to shore simply with a stinging face and drenched clothes, when fishermen are attacked, they are unable to make their living. For the one attack on CPS Gaza, there have been tens if not hundreds of attacks on fishing boats.

International observers of Gaza are being targeted evermore frequently, as witnessed with the sabotage and interception of the 2nd flotilla fleet. Such attacks prevent those who have easier access to the world beyond the siege from witnessing attacks on Gazan civilians. These are the actions of a nation that has something to hide.

Human rights volunteers will continue to monitor violations, regardless of what the Israeli Navy fires at us, not only because we aren’t doing anything wrong, but because we know, and I mean this graciously, we are doing what is right and is what no authority is willing to do: ensuring that when fishermen are shot and attacked, somebody is there to witness and document it. Not everyone is able to get to Gaza, so hopefully the video footage and this account will help to bring Gaza to you.


Americans for a Stronger Israel




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Rights Activist July 15, 2011 2:43 pm (Pacific time)

How many did Israel kill?  Not enough.  F*ck Palestine.

 Editor: Bigot, racist piece of trash.  To oppose you is not a case of bias.

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