IFOP Successful Cross Party Briefing to Irish Parliament on Gaza Fishermen Plight

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Successful Cross Party representation; Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and Labour at our Briefing yesterday given to the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament), those attending were: From Fianna Fail Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, from Labour; Senator Ivana Bacik’s Political Advisor and Joe Higgins’ TD Political Advisor. From Sinn Fein; Sean Crowe TD, Aengus O Snodaigh TD, Gerry Adams TD, Brian Stanley TD, Michael Colreavy TD. Delivering the briefing on behalf of the Irish Friends of Palestine were Sinn Fein Cllr John Hearne and Pat Fitzgerald, both members of the November 2012 Irish Friends of Palestine Delegation to Gaza. Joining John and Pat was Billy Smyth, all three men are Irish Fishermen. Upon conclusion of the meeting in the Oireachtas , Cllr John Hearne said; “I want to thank all the TD’s and Senators from all the political parties who hosted us today in Leinster House as we delivered the report in addition to first hand accounts of human rights abuses inflicted on innocent Palestinian fisherman in Gaza.” he continued “It was a very constructive meeting today, we received very strong support from those TDS and Senators with whom we met. We all agreed to work together in order to advance the cause of the Fishermen and to also advance the anti-apartheid cause in Ireland. We will be working on these ideas with the Senators and TDs in the near future. When we were in Gaza we promised the fishermen we would continue to show support. As ordinary Fishermen in Ireland we want to show that Israel attacks Fisherman and Farmers in their workplace .” Briefing report below:

Special thanks to "Fishing Under Fire" www.fishignunderfire.blogspot.com for their continued reporting

BRIEFING REPORT:

Fishermen from Waterford as part of an Irish Friends of Palestine Delegation to Gaza recently met with Mr. Mahfouz Kabariti President of the Gaza Fishermen Association, Zakaria Baker, the head of the Union of Agricultural Workers and the delegation also received additional information from a meeting with Mr. Ali Altarshawi, the Minister of Agriculture in Gaza, regarding the current conditions facing the Fishing Industry due to the siege. The Fishermen community and Fishing Industry in Gaza as a whole are suffering greatly due to the brutal siege and illegal maritime restrictions on Palestinian territorial waters imposed by Israel. The international agreement “Oslo Accords” gives fishermen the right to fish up to 20 nautical miles out from shore. However Israel imposes its own restriction of just 3 nautical miles! This was supposedly extended recently to 6 miles as part of the ceasefire reached between Hamas and Israel November 2012. Yet fishermen continue to be shot at, or arrested, and their boats destroyed, if they attempt to travel much farther than the original limit. The Israeli Navy and Military also prevent Palestinian fishermen from fishing within 1 nautical mile of the border which is between Israel and the Gaza Strip, thus further reducing the allowable fishing waters, even though this area falls under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. Additionally Israel often arrests fishermen who are near the 3 mile limit and confiscate their fishing boats. To date Israel currently has 36 boats which it refuses to return to the Fishermen.

Israeli restrictions on waters off the Gaza Strip are hurting more than 40,000 people who depend on fishing as their only means of income. A recent report from UNWRA says “Fishing being confined so close to shore has meant poor catches for Gazan fishermen in terms of fish size, value and quantity” it continues; “Fish stocks have been depleted because many natural breeding grounds are close to shore. For the families of the fishermen, the reduced income means they have become progressively impoverished over the past 12 years, and now depend on aid and jobs from the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other humanitarian agencies.”

Mahfouz Kabariti, Coordinator of the Fishermen’s Solidarity Campaign in the Gaza Strip, says: “The Gazan community needs 21,000 tons of fish annually. In the last year, the total extracted fish from the sea was only 3000 tons.”

Aside from the problems of fishing restrictions, there are grave and serious Human Rights abuses that continue against the Fishermen. In the month of January 2013 over 15 abuses were lodged by the Palestinian Human Rights Centre (PCHR). The PCHR believes that these attacks form part of the collective punishment measures imposed on Palestinian civilians, as they deny Palestinian fishermen access to their livelihood, in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law. A report issued by Euromid in May 2012 concluded that Israeli authorities limited the permissible fishing zone, but also Israeli Warships continue to prevent 3,600 fishermen from practicing their own trade freely and safely, even within the 3-mile limit imposed by Israel. Euromid states there are 150 violations per year committed by Israel against Gaza fishermen including arbitrarily arrests and shootings, in addition to dumping, vandalizing, and confiscating fishing boats.

28 September 2012, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian fisherman and wounded his brother, while they and a group of other fishermen were located a few meters from the shore in the northern Gaza Strip, pulling out their fishing nets.

In his testimony to PCHR, Yousef Mohammed Zayed (19), a fisherman from Beit Lahia, stated to PCHR:

“At approximately 05:00 on Friday, 28 September 2012, my brother Haitham, my cousins, Fahmi and Yousef Ahmed Saleh Abu Riash, and I went fishing opposite to Beit Lahia beach in the northern Gaza Strip. We started fishing nearly 70 meters away from the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. When the sun rose, we got as close as 15 meters to the border because fish was extensively available in the area. At approximately 09:30, I heard intensive shooting in the area. I looked back and saw about 9 Israeli soldiers atop a hill that is nearly 20 meters to the east of the beach. Immediately, Haitham, my cousin Ahmed, and I ran away and took shelter behind a hill, while Fahmi and Yousef remained stuck only 5 meters from the beach. Israeli soldiers shouted at them, and I saw my cousin Fahmi attempting to escape, but an Israeli soldier fired at him. He was wounded by a bullet to the left thigh. His brother Yousef attempted to offer him help, but he was also wounded by bullet shrapnel to the left hand. I saw Fahmi trying to stand up and escape, but an Israeli soldier fired at him again. Soon, some fishermen headed towards the two wounded fishermen and carried them to an ambulance of the Civil Defense, which transported them to Kamal Edwan Hospital. At approximately 22:30, Fahmi Saleh Abu Riash was pronounced dead.”

The Irish Government should support the calls from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights below:

The PCHR calls upon Israel:

1. To put an end to attacks against Palestinian fishermen in violation of their rights to life, safety, and security, and to allow them to fish freely in Gaza Sea;

2. To investigate the facts of this close-range attack against civilian fishermen, publish the results of such an investigation, and prosecute the Israeli soldiers who fired at two civilian fishermen, although the latter did not pose any threat to the lives of those soldiers;

3. To immediately put an end to its policy of chasing and arresting Palestinian fishermen at sea, and to return confiscated fishing boats and equipment;

4. To compensate the victims for the physical and material damage caused their person and property; and

5. To lift the naval blockade, which constitutes a form of collective punishment and is a war crime under international humanitarian law.

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