Rights Groups Urge Israel: Revoke Gaza Fishing Restrictions Imposed During Flare-up

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Palestinian fishermen make their way back after Israel restricted Palestinian fishing zone, in Gaza, earlier this week.
Palestinian fishermen make their way back after Israel restricted Palestinian fishing zone, in Gaza, earlier this week.Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

A coalition of human rights organizations have called on Israel to reverse its Monday decision to restrict fishing off the Gaza Strip, decrying "collective punishment" over repeated rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled enclave.

In a letter adressed to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, the groups – Gisha, Adalah and Gaza-based Al Mezan – said the fishing ban harms "Gaza's entire civilian population."

They cited Israeli authorities who claimed Hamas was responsible for any violence coming out of the Strip, and therefore questioned the measure, which affects all Gazans.

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After three consecutive nights of rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli strikes against Hamas targets, Israel announced on Monday that Gaza's fishing zone will be closed off "until further notice," practically banning fishing in its sea space.

A tense calm has been restored since then, but there has been no word as of yet on any Israeli move to undo the fishing ban.

Mahmud ed-Daifi Sai, a Palestinian fisherman, said it could cost him his living. "We have no other job," he told Reuters on Tuesday. "We depend on the sea as a means of livelihood. I started my profession about 13 years ago. While we were fishing within the piscary, which we were allowed, the Israeli navy opened fire at us and forced us to leave the fishing nets behind us and leave the area where we were fishing."

Nizar Ayash, head of the Gaza Fishermen Association, told Gisha that on Tuesday night several fishermen, who went out to sea in the northern area of the military-defined fishing zone, were fired at by the Israeli navy.

One of the fishermen was shot with a rubber bullet and sustained injuries, Ayash added.

"Israel is aware of the fact that its actions cause harm to thousands of fishermen and their families, as well as to the rest of Gaza's population and the local economy," the organizations argued in their letter.

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