GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli naval forces opened fire towards Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the besieged Gaza Strip on Thursday morning.
Fishermen told Ma’an that Israeli navy ships opened fire at and chased fishing boats three nautical miles off the northern coast of Gaza City, forcing them to flee back to shore.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli naval forces fired warning shots into the air when a “fishing vessel deviated from the designated fishing zone,” adding that the fishing boat then returned to shore.
The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights condemned Israeli army violations against Palestinian fishermen, saying that they posed a real threat to the rights of civilians in the Gaza Strip.
Al-Mezan added that fishermen had a right to exercise their profession in Gaza, and that Israeli forces were breaching international humanitarian law by preventing fishermen from gaining their livelihood.
The group added that Palestinian fishermen were continuously at risk of being killed, injured or arbitrarily detained, and called upon the international community to intervene.
Gazan fishermen, whose numbers are estimated to be around 4,000, have suffered from the near decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip, which limits their incursions to just six nautical miles into the sea in accordance with the ceasefire agreement signed with Palestinian factions in 2014.
Despite the 2014 agreement, Israeli army incursions inside the Palestinian territory have long been a near-daily occurrence, as the Israeli army regularly opens fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen and farmers along the border areas.
There have also been intermittent reports of Israeli forces attempting to sink the boats of fishermen as they approach Israel’s unilaterally declared “buffer zone,” which lies on both the land and sea sides of Gaza.
Earlier this month, a Palestinian fisherman went missing after an encounter with Israeli forces off the coast of Gaza, with his family announcing his death days later
despite his body having yet to be recovered.