Israeli maritime authorities shot and wounded a sole fisherman off the coast of Gaza this past week, because he refused to move his vessel from waters that Israel claims he was violating.
While Israel, under the United Nations Council on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), maintains complete sovereignty over territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles from its coast. Israel had recently banned navigation of non-Israeli vessels into waters more than three nautical miles off its coast in order to prevent smuggling and terrorist activity.
This move was met with resistance from Gaza, because so many Arab fishermen use the waters just off the coast. Israel recently agreed to extend the permissible fishing zone to 6 nautical miles off the coast.
The leader of Gaza’s fishing union, Nizar Aayesh told media that the fishing boat was within this 6 mile zone, while Israeli Defense Force authorities claim that the boat deviated from the fishing zone.
The IDF claims that the soldiers only fired a warning shot at the vehicle, and one fisherman was wounded because he was hit with shrapnel.
The situation off the coast of Gaza is very complex. Because the region was officially transferred to Palestine nearly a decade ago, Israeli maintains rights to the waters off the coast.
The incident is just a small blip on the radar of greater Israeli/Palestinian violence that has been occurring for decades. Most violence and clashes occur on land, as Palestine has yet to establish enough of a maritime presence to legitimately contest any of Israel’s claims to the sea.