Name: Abdullah B.
Date of Incident: 1 December 2012
Location: Mediterranean Sea, Gaza
Nature of Incident: Restriction on fishing
On 1 December 2012, a 14-year-old boy, his father and other relatives are fired upon by an Israeli gunboat and later detained whilst fishing within Israel’s six nautical mile limit.
Abdullah lives with his family in Gaza city. He works with his father and his older brother as a fisherman. "My father has a small boat and we live off the fish we catch. We live in very difficult economic conditions. My father and my brother earn around 1,500 shekels per month [around US $ 390], and that is not enough to support our big family," Abdullah explains.
On Saturday, 1 December 2012, Abdullah, his father and brother left the house at around 5:00 a.m. to go fishing. At the port, they ran into Abdullah’s brother-in-law and invited him to come along with them to fish. "We headed to an area called al-Waha, about four-and-a-half nautical miles from the shore," says Abdullah. "After the recent truce with Israel, we are now allowed to fish within six nautical miles. However, my father doesn’t like to risk going to the limit because the Israeli gunboats arrest and shoot at the fishermen, and sabotage their nets and boats," he adds.
"At around 9:30 a.m., we saw an Israeli gunboat chasing and shooting at the fishing boats that were about six nautical miles from the shore. My father moved the boat closer to the shore so we wouldn’t be shot at, but then the Israeli boat stopped shooting and went back to the limit. All the fishermen started going back to fish, and we did as well." Abdullah says they were again about four-and-a-half nautical miles from the shore, when they saw two Israeli rubber boats approaching them at high speed. "They started shooting at us and I got really scared because the bullets were hitting the water around us and our boat," he recalls. "My father made signs to them indicating that we would go to the shore, but the soldiers kept shooting at us."
Abdullah’s father finally stopped the boat and they were ordered to take their clothes off. "I was so terrified I even started crying," says Abdullah. "This was the first time I experienced such a thing." The fishermen were transferred to the rubber boats, and then to a bigger boat. Once on board, "my hands were tied behind my back with three plastic cords and I was blindfolded. I was forced to sit on the floor next to my father, and I was very cold because I was still in my underwear. [...] Now and then they would open fire and bring over more fishermen."
Abdullah estimates they travelled for about two hours to Ashdod port. On arrival they were given clothes and slippers to put on. Nine fishermen had been arrested in total. They were made to wait in a room where they were given food, and then they were taken for a brief medical examination. "After that, I was taken to another room, where a man in civilian clothes in his thirties asked me for my name and my age in Arabic. He also asked me where I live. He then started asking me about my brother-in-law. 'He works with Hamas,’ he said, and I told him I didn’t know where he works."
After the interrogation, the fishermen were made to wait in the room for many hours. Abdullah fell asleep from exhaustion. "At around 11:00 p.m., a soldier came and ordered us to get into a bus. They untied us and removed the blindfolds, and replaced the ties with handcuffs around my hands and ankles. The rings around my ankles were connected with a chain. They took us to Erez Crossing Point and a soldier ordered us to walk in a line, not in zigzag, or they would shoot us." At Erez, they were asked questions about their detention and interrogation by the Palestinian authorities.
Abdullah arrived home at around 12:30 p.m. "I was so relieved," he says. "The most scary part was when they shot at us, and when the rubber boat approached us and opened fire at our boat. At that moment, I felt I was going to die. The soldiers looked so scary with those black masks." Abdullah’s brother-in-law is still detained and Abdullah says they don’t know why. "He works as a cook in a restaurant affiliated with Hamas, but he works for the money. He is not a militant. He goes fishing to improve his living conditions; to earn 20 more shekels [around US $ 5] to support his family."
Abdullah adds: "The Israeli army confiscated our boat. The rubber boats towed it to Ashdod. With that, our only source of income has been cut off. Now my father, my brother and I are unemployed."
4 December 2012
Urgent Appeal - Children of the Sea
UN - Five years of blockade: the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip (June 2012)
The Guardian video - Gaza fishermen: 'We are no longer fishermen, we've become traders'