PCHR: Call to action following Israel’s fishing limit to 3 nautical miles

Palestinian Center for Human Rights

Israel again reduces the allowed fishing area to 3 nautical miles                                   

Sunday, 24 March 2013 00:00

Ref: 34/2013

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) seriously condemns the Israeli forces' announcement of its decision to again reduce the allowed fishing range in the Gaza Strip's seawaters from 6 nautical miles to 3 nautical miles and also the extension of the buffer zone to 300 meters along the northern and eastern borders of the Gaza Strip. PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to put an end to these arbitrary measures, which constitute a violation of the international human rights law and international humanitarian law, especially the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.

Following the last Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip in November 2012, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel, in an online statement on 25 February 2013 the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) declared that fishermen could access the sea up to six nautical miles offshore, and that farmers could access lands in the border area up to 100m from the border fence. However, both references have since been removed from the statement.[1] Then, on 21 March 2013, the Israeli forces’ spokesperson announced re-reducing the fishing area allowed for Palestinian fishermen from 6 nautical miles to 3 nautical miles.

PCHR’s field updates on the buffer zone and the seawaters indicate that Israeli attacks in both the areas have increased after the November ceasefire. PCHR’s documentation reveals that post ceasefire Israeli forces killed 4 Palestinian civilians, injured another 65 , which include 17 children, and arrested 48 others, including 19 children, in the buffer zone.  Many Palestinian civilians were denied free and safe access to their houses, property, and lands, which seriously violates their right to work.  Also in Gaza’s seawaters, PCHR documented that between 22 November 2012 to 28 February 2013, Israeli forces: engaged in 41 shooting incidents; injured 4 fishermen; arrested 42 fishermen in 11 incidents, damaged 8 fishing boats; and confiscated other 8 fishing boats.

It should be noted that since 1994 the Israeli forces have gradually reduced the fishing area in the Gaza Strip's seawaters from 20 nautical miles (according to Oslo Accords) to 3 nautical miles in 2009. These restrictions form a part of the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, imposed through shootings, illegal arrests and arbitrary detentions of fishermen, and damaging and confiscating the boats.  The fishing sector in Gaza is on the brink of collapse due to these restrictions and the prohibition on exports.  The number of fishermen has gradually reduced from around 10,000 in 1999 to approximately 3,200 today.  Despite the November cease-fire agreement, which allowed the fishermen to sail and fish up to 6 nautical miles, the forces continued to attack fishermen even within the previously imposed 3 nautical mile range.

The Israeli forces’ attacks on fishermen, who do not pose any security threat, constitute a violation of the international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  The no-fishing area, which was imposed by arbitrary arrests and attacks is a form of collective punishment prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.  The right to just and favorable conditions of work is guaranteed in Article 23 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 6 and 7 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Further, Article 11 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes "The right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions."

PCHR seriously condemns the recent Israeli measures to deny safe access to land and sea areas in the Gaza Strip, and:

Denounces the policy of collective punishment imposed by the Israeli forces against civilians in the Gaza Strip;

  • Calls for a prompt intervention to pressurize Israel to put an end to the recent measures; and to guarantee the free and safe access of civilians to their houses, property, and lands and to allow fishermen to sail and fish freely in the Gaza Strip's waters;
  • Calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities by taking immediate measures to ensure that international law is not violated by Israeli forces against the Palestinian civilians, particularly fishermen and farmers;
  • Calls for discontinuing and non-repetition of the targeting of civilians, who are entitled to protections under the international human rights law and international humanitarian law, especially in the Gaza Strip's border area and waters.

[1] Nonetheless, the COGAT Monthly Report for November 2012 still states: “Following operation “Pillar of Defense” (November 14-21), a ceasefire was agreed upon; as a part of it and [sic] the fishing area in Gaza was increased from 3 miles to 6.”

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