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ISM Rafah: Israeli navy vessels again open fire on Gazan fishermen

On Monday 8th September at least ten fishing vessels left Gaza City port and traveled out into the Mediterranean Sea up to 10 miles offshore.

ISM volunteers were onboard three of the boats. They were equipped with video cameras to record and document the aggressive actions of the Israeli naval gunboats towards the fishing vessels. As per the volunteers’ experiences on all previous outings, many of the boats were harassed and shot at by the Israeli gunboats. The soldiers on these gunboats are committing war crimes by shooting at unarmed fishermen who are just trying to earn a living and feed their families.

In the afternoon, between 2:30pm and 3:00pm, one gunboat approached three fishing vessels, which were about ten miles offshore, and began to circle one of them multiple times. Using VHF radio, the Israeli gunboat ordered the Gazan fishermen to alter course, saying that their boats were heading into a dangerous area. An ISM volunteer contacted the gunboat asking about the nature of the danger, but did not receive any answer. The gunboat then fired at the fishing vessels in the area with a machine gun and some kind of shells shot from the cannon. The volunteers immediately contacted the gunboat and requested that it stop shooting, stating that unarmed civilian fishermen and international volunteers were aboard the boats. The heavy shooting and shelling continued and one of the fishing boats was obliged to make an emergency call on VHF channel 16. The gunboat continued firing upon the fishing vessels for some time, despite the emergency call.

Most of the vessels were still at sea come sundown. This means that the fishermen were still at sea during Iftar – the time when observant Muslims break the Ramadan fast for the day. Israeli gunboats again attacked some of the vessels at this time.

Despite all the harassment and attacks by the Israeli navy, most of the fishing boats had a remarkably successful day, landing a large quantity of fish.