Israeli court orders return of seized boat to Gaza fisherman, NGO Reports


Israel has returned a boat to a Gaza fisherman that it had confiscated for allegedly exceeding the boundaries of the Palestinian enclave’s fishing zone, according to a non-governmental organization (NGO) on Sunday.

The Israeli authorities initially sought to permanently seize the vessel belonging to fisherman Mohammad al-Hissi, raising concerns of potential further seizures near the Gaza Strip. However, a Haifa court ruled last month that the boat should be returned to Hissi while legal proceedings continued. The NGO Gisha, which defends the rights of Palestinians in Gaza, confirmed this development.

Gisha stated that Hissi received his boat on Friday. According to Miriam Marmur, the public advocacy director at Gisha, the Israeli navy had confiscated Hissi’s boat in November 2022. Marmur also informed AFP (Agence France-Presse) that the navy had seized another boat belonging to Hissi’s relative, Jihad al-Hissi, in February 2022, which was released in September.

The court case against Israeli authorities, seeking the permanent confiscation of the two boats, is ongoing, Marmur added.

Gisha further emphasized that while the court ordered the boats to be returned until the conclusion of the legal proceedings, it also imposed stringent conditions, including a substantial financial deposit.

Mohammad al-Hissi was unavailable for comment, but his relative Jihad expressed dissatisfaction with the court’s decision, describing it as “unfair.” Jihad told AFP, “The decision is unfair because we paid a large amount of money in addition to our loss of not being able to fish since the boats were seized.”

The Israeli army, when contacted by AFP, declined to comment on the matter.

The Israeli navy had seized the vessels off the coast of Gaza, claiming that they had violated the restrictions imposed by Israel. Subsequently, the authorities sought to permanently confiscate the boats, a request described by Gisha as “unprecedented.”

Gisha emphasized that Israel lacks the authority to seize boats engaged in fishing activities for sustenance and income in Gaza’s maritime space, let alone permanently confiscate them.

This issue holds significant importance for the thousands of people residing in the blockaded Palestinian territory, where fishing in the Mediterranean Sea serves as one of the few economic lifelines. Currently, Israel’s permitted fishing zone extends only between six and 15 nautical miles (approximately 11 to 28 kilometers) off the Gaza coast.

The court battle occurs against the backdrop of an increase in Israel’s temporary confiscations of fishing boats suspected of smuggling or breaching the fishing zone. According to the Palestinian NGO Al Mezan, there were 23 boat confiscations last year, the highest number since 2018.

Israel argues that its land, air, and sea blockade of Gaza is necessary to protect itself from attacks by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the enclave. However, Palestinians contend that it constitutes an effective siege that has severely impacted Gaza’s economy and further impoverished its population.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.