On Monday morning, 16 January, the Israeli occupation navy has so far seized five Palestinian fishers. Early in the morning, the Israeli navy forced two Palestinian fishermen from their boats off the coast of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, seizing the two of them and confiscating their boat. The two, Ourans Sultan and Mohammed Sultan, were taken to an unknown destination. Just before noon on Monday, three more fishers were seized by occupation forces in the sea off the northern coast of Gaza and fire is continuing toward fishing boats.
The attack on the fishers came after two Palestinian merchants from the Gaza Strip were also seized by Israeli occupation forces on Sunday evening, 15 January, as they attempted to cross the Beit Hanoun/Erez border crossing. The two traders, Medhat Karam and Hazem Touman, had secured permits to cross for trade purposes; however, they were subjected to arbitrary and lengthy interrogation before being taken to an unknown location.
The Palestine Prisoners Center for Studies noted that these arrests come after a year of escalating arrests against all sectors of society in the Gaza Strip. In 2016, 125 fishermen were arrested by Israeli forces and dozens of boats confiscated. While the vast majority of fishers were shortly released, they were frequently subject to physical injury and the confiscation, damage to or loss of their valuable fishing boats, at a time when fishers in Palestine have been economically devastated due to the Israeli occupation forces’ restriction of their fishing area.
On Wednesday, 4 January, Palestinian fisherman Rashad Hissi was in his fishing boat west of northern Gaza, 5 nautical miles from the shore. As the Fishermen’s Committee of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in the Gaza Strip noted, “one of the Israeli navy boat ran into the fishing boat directly without any prior warning, resulting in capsizing and damaging the boat completely and the loss of the fisherman, Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed Jamil Hissi, who is still missing.” Hissi was later declared dead. The fishermen urged international action to protect Palestinian fishermen seeking to work and secure their livelihood under attack by Israeli occupation forces, as well as an end to the siege on Gaza.
There were a total of 223 Palestinians from Gaza arrested last year by occupation forces; 15 of them were merchants, as well as patients going to receive medical treatment and students seeking to study abroad.