Fisherman shot dead by the Israeli navy, Gaza fishermen go on strike

Mohammad Baker with his daughter. Gaza fishermen held two-day strike in his honor.

Mohammad Baker with his daughter. Gaza fishermen held a two-day strike in his honor.

May 18, 2017. On Monday, May 15, the Gaza Fishermen’s Union announced a two-day strike in solidarity with Mohammad Baker, a 28-year-old fisherman who succumbed to his injuries on Monday after being shot from an Israeli navy vessel. Six other fishermen were detained in two separate incidents that day. Fishermen on strike did not go out to sea on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Palestinian media. Further actions of protest are being planned, including a conference about the severe restrictions and risks faced by those working in the fishing industry.

Last week, Gisha cautioned against the methods used by the navy to enforce Israeli-imposed restrictions on the fishing zone, turning fishing into a highly hazardous occupation in Gaza. As reported to Gisha, actions are taken to enforce the fishing zone even in the absence of a concrete threat. Incidents in which fishermen made a navigational error, or drifted outside the zone by mistake, have ended with Israel confiscating their boats and/or opening fire at the fishermen, resulting in injury, damage to equipment and death. According to information collected by Palestinian human rights organization Al Mezan, prior to the incidents this week and so far in 2017, 14 fishermen have been detained by the Israeli navy, five have been injured and one has been killed.

On May 3, Israeli authorities announced a temporary expansion of the fishing zone from six to nine nautical miles, to the south of Wadi Gaza. Fishermen told Gisha that this may increase the variety of their catch, but not necessarily the quantity yielded. They also said that the profit they may make by going further out to sea is certainly not worth risking their lives over. Even if a breach of the approved fishing zone is suspected, there is nothing to justify opening fire at people who pose no danger.

Restricting the fishing zone, which, according to the Oslo Accords, should have stretched 20 nautical miles off the coast, harms the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen and their families in Gaza, stifling a profession that has traditionally been one of the most important in the area. The control exercised by Israel over Gaza’s sea, land and air access comes with responsibilities, including an obligation to allow residents of Gaza to access their livelihoods without risking their lives.