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ISM Gaza: Israeli navy again open fire on Gazan fishermen and internationals

This Sunday the 12th October 2008, the Israeli navy continued its violent harassment of Palestinian fishermen. A fleet of seven fishing boats from the port in Gaza City initially spotted two Israeli gunboats operating in Palestinian territorial waters at 08:45. The gunboats began circling some of the fishing boats at the rear of the fleet, and demanding that they turn around and head back towards Gaza City. Some minutes later one of these gunboats opened fire with a deck mounted machine gun – none of the fishing boats were however hit.

By 10:30 the fishermen and some of the six Human Rights Observers (HRO) present on their boats observed a large Israeli naval vessel quickly approaching from their rear. Reaching the two fishing boats at the back of the fishing fleet, the Israeli boat then proceeded to mount two sustained attacks on them with a high powered water cannon. It also opened fire with a machine gun during one of these attacks. It was unclear what the intended target of the machine gun fire was. The wheelhouse of one of the fishing boats did however sustain significant damage – several wooden panels were either punctured or ripped from their framework by the water cannon.

The Israel vessel, upon reaching a further four fishing boats that were hauling in their nets, began assaulting them with the water cannon. The jet from the water cannon knocked one o the HROs off their feet, propelled them across the deck and almost into the sea. As a result of this attack the nets of three of the fishing boats became entangled with each other. Despite the obvious difficulty these boats were now in, the Israeli vessel continued its assault with the water cannon.

For the next several hours, the large Israeli vessel continued its series of attacks on the Palestinian fishing boats. As a result, the windows of two of the fishing boats were broken. One fishing boat sustained further damage to its wheelhouse.

No one was seriously injured on this occasion by the Israeli water cannon. It should be noted however that the use of this weapon against civilian fishing boats, severely endangers the safety of all those on-board. Clearly, there is a significant risk of someone being swept overboard, or sustaining severe injury by either being propelled into some object on board, or having some object propelled into them. In recent weeks the lower back of an Italian HRO was badly lacerated after a water cannon shattered a window in the wheelhouse in which he was standing, and propelled the glass shards at him.