PH Quickie: Starving Gazans into submission?

Palestinian fishermen at the Gaza City port, May 13, 2015. (Aaed Tayeh/Flash90

Palestinian fishermen at the Gaza City port, May 13, 2015. (Aaed Tayeh/Flash90

by Kathryn Shihadah

Al-Jazeera reports that Israel has completely shut down the fishing industry in Gaza – in contravention of international law – declaring that the decision was due to “the continuous launching of incendiary balloons and kites from the Gaza Strip towards Israel,” and stating that the policy would continue “until further notice.”

The Oslo Accords of 1993 obligates Israel to allow fishing up to 20 nautical miles from the Gaza coast; in reality, Gazans have never been allowed access to more than 12 miles, and at times as little as 3.

At least 5,500 Gazans rely on the fishing industry for their income.

Protesting injustice

The incendiary balloons, or “terror balloons,” are one of the forms of resistance Gazans have employed since March 2018, the start of an ongoing mass demonstration against Israel’s 12-year brutal blockade.


The Great March of Return movement takes the form of a weekly mass demonstration at the border with Israel. Tens of thousands of Gazan Palestinians attend the protest each Friday; while the vast majority are there to watch, some engage in stone-throwing, or rush the fence to plant a flag or cut the razor wire that separates them from the land they were ethnically cleansed from in 1948.

When the wind is right, a small number of the protesters set fire to balloon strings and kite tails, sending them over the border into Israel. At times they land while still burning and set a field on fire.

On the other side of the border, Israeli snipers are positioned behind earth mounds or inside tanks. They have been documented shooting down children, medics, journalists, disabled persons, and bystanders.

United Nations weighs in

Israel’s killing of over 300 protesters, according to a UN report, may constitute crimes against humanity.

The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities. Less lethal alternatives remained available and substantial defenses were in place, rendering the use of lethal force neither necessary nor proportionate, and therefore impermissible.

The New York Times quoted one member of the UN panel: “There can be no justification for killing and injuring journalists, medics and persons who pose no imminent threat of death or serious injury to those around them.” adding that “the targeting of children and persons with disabilities” was especially disturbing.

In fact, Israeli and Palestinian rights groups found the Israeli army’s use of lethal force so egregious that they petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to invalidate the rules of engagement – a petition that was rejected.

The suspension of fishing in Gaza is a form of collective punishment, and is illegal according to international humanitarian law.