The World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) and its Youth Assembly strongly condemns the barbaric killing of 18 years old Ismail Abu Riyala and injuring Mahmoud Adel Said Abu Riyala and Abu Hasan Nimer Abu Ali. The three Palestinian fishers were fishing on the Northern Area of Gaza territorial waters on Sunday, 25th of February 2018 when they were attacked by Israeli Navy.
This is not the first time that lives of innocent Palestinian fishers are taken away because of border conflicts and rampant militarization in the marine borders. The issue is of serious concern as it also is part of a larger conflict and one of many regular attacks by Israeli naval forces.
Palestinians wanting to go to sea need to request a permit from Israel, and those who obtain a permit are only for a restricted area, decided by Israelian authorities, and fisher cannot go further than 6 miles. Israeli patrol boats have at times fired at boats that exceeded the distance allowed. In the Interim Agreement, signed by Israel and the PLO, Israel agreed to allow fishing boats from Gaza to go until twenty nautical miles from the coastline except for a few areas (to which they were prohibited entry). In practice, Israel did not issue permits to all applicants and allowed fishing up to a distance of no more than 6 nautical miles. Following the disengagement, Israel reduced the fishing area even more, and since 2006, fishermen have not been allowed to go further than three nautical miles from shore. As a result, the fishing sector in Gaza, which provides a livelihood to many families and is an important source of food for residents of the area, suffered a harsh blow. In the present case, the fishing boat was in the allowed area in the north western of Bait Lahia, when the Israelian Army opened fire. In fact, all the fisher that were killed at sea were fishing in the so called “restricted area”.
The Israeli occupation affects the fishers’ access to their fishing grounds and drastically impacts their livelihoods. The Israeli forces have carried out many attacks on fishers, include shooting, verbal and physical harassment, pumping waste water in to their boats, and arresting them, forcing them to strip off their clothes and swim to the Israeli gunboats. There were also several instances where Israeli forces have destructed and confiscated the boats and fishing equipment of Palestinian fishers.
These interdictions are part of the overall strategy of the Israelian Army, organizing a siege of Gaza, and depriving its inhabitants from opportunities to produce their own food, making them dependant on food aid. The final aim of this strategy is to continue the sea blockade on Gaza.
Some of press agencies reported news about Palestinian fishers killed at sea, describing the case in line with the propaganda of the Israeli army. However, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a grassroot organization working with food producers in Palestine and member of WFFP, has denounced the facts as here reported.
During its 7th General Assembly in New Delhi, WFFP asserted the importance of ‘having strong regulations and legal frameworks that value fishers’ lives, protecting fishing communities from land, water and ocean grabbing and secure livelihoods, control over and access to resources’.
As written in article 6.18 of the International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, endorsed by 150 FAO member states and result of a consultative process involving more than 4000 members of small-scale fishers’ organizations:
“Taking into account the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security including section 254, all parties should protect the human rights and dignity of small-scale fisheries stakeholders in situations of armed conflict in accordance with international humanitarian law to allow them to pursue their traditional livelihoods, to have access to customary fishing grounds and to preserve their culture and way of life. Their effective participation in decision-making on matters that impact them should be facilitated.”
These guidelines are the voices of fisher people all around the world, and they have to be respected, particularly in the case of armed conflicts.
Thus, WFFP condemns strongly the Israeli Occupation Forces and their brutal killing of Ismail, the injuring of Aahed Hassan Abu Ali and Mahmoud Aadel Abu Reyala and constant harassment of the Palestine Fishers. The Fishing communities from across the world should come together to fight for the rights of the Palestinian fishers and Palestinian people in their cause and against the Israeli occupation and human rights violations.
As WFFP we are asking for the following recommendations to be respected:
As Fisher People from all over the world, we are supporting all our oppressed comrades from Palestine: the Israeli occupation army must not only stop killing fishers, but the siege of Gaza must stop immediately, for the rights of the Palestinian people to be recognized and respected.0