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Jul-20-2011 17:12printcomments

Human Rights Workers Continues to Face Israeli Aggression in Gazan Waters

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.

CPS Gaza
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(GAZA STRIP) - The Israeli navy attacked Civil Peace Service Gaza volunteers along with international press and Palestinian fishermen today. One of the Israeli ships targeted the boats with high pressure water cannons.

Meanwhile, a small naval boat approached the Oliva and hit it from behind, stopping the boat and causing serious damage to the engine. The crew aboard the Oliva was evacuated to other boats and all the boats at sea were forced to turn back.

Joe Catron, an American human rights worker aboard the Oliva who writes frequently for Salem-News.com, stated, "Israel has been regularly attacking Palestinian fishermen within the purported 3 nautical mile fishing limit. The livelihood of many Gazans relies on fishing and Israel has been using live ammunition and water cannons to prevent fishermen from doing their work. We will continue to go out with the Palestinians and document human rights violations, despite the powerful threats we and Gazan fishermen face."

This is the fourth attack on Oliva in less than two week. To watch and read recent reports in the news media about CPS Gaza, visit Al Jazeera and The Guardian.

Journalists and TV Crews are invited to join the CPSGaza boat. The Oliva will be sailing again on Thursday at 8:30 am and Friday at 7:30 am. Contact Nathan Stuckey, a US human rights worker with CPS Gaza, for more details 059-765-0864. Civil Peace Service Gaza is an international, third party, non-violent initiative to monitor potential human rights violations in Gazan territorial waters.

Background

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 (PCHR: 2010). The marine 'buffer zone' restricts Gazan fishermen from accessing 85% 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 the 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 (PCHR: 2010).

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%. The coastal areas are now grossly over-fished and 2/3 of fishermen have left the industry since 2000 (PCHR: 2009). 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 (PCHR 2009).

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). "The Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip." Oct. 2010.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. "A report on: Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Fishers in the Gaza Strip." August 2009.




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