Israeli forces arrested four Gaza fishermen on Monday and took them to an unknown destination, Gaza’s ministry of agriculture said.

Ramez Izzat Baker, Khamis Subhi Baker, Bayan Subhi Baker, and Omar Muhammad Baker were detained while fishing off the coast near Gaza City.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said navy forces detained the fishermen for questioning because they deviated from the designated fishing area. Warning shots were also fired in the air, she added.

Under Israel’s maritime blockade, Palestinians are forbidden from fishing more than three nautical miles from the coast. During the Oslo accords negotiators had agreed on 20 nautical miles of fishing access along Gaza’s coastline.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned the escalation in attacks on Gaza fishermen.

Eid Mohssen Eid Baker, who witnessed Monday’s attack. told PCHR that an Israeli gunboat had shot randomly at his cousin’s boat.

“One of the soldiers ordered us to stop, but we kept sailing south in escape of the open fire. My cousin Ramez Baker’s boat suddenly stopped after a bullet hit the boat engine, and the Israeli gunboat approached it, to a distance of nearly 30 meters.

“I saw the four fishermen, Ramez, Arafat, Khamis and his son Bayan, take off their clothes, jump in the water amidst the continuous shooting, and swim towards the Israeli gunboat. The soldiers confiscated the fishermen’s boat and transported it towards the northern side,” he said.

PCHR says Palestinian fishermen have lost 85 percent of their income because they are prevented from reaching areas where fish are abundant.

“Sometimes, Israeli forces also chase fishermen within the 3 nautical mile area,” the Gaza-based rights group said in a statement.

“PCHR believes that these violations are committed in the context of a policy of collective punishment against civilians, and that they are aimed at preventing civilians from meeting their subsistence needs. Such actions are prohibited under international humanitarian and international human rights law.”

Ma’an News Agency 2005 – 2012