Israel returned 20 fishing boats today (July 3) to the Gaza Strip impounded by the IDF for breaking the naval blockade after a petition by several human rights organizations was accepted by Israel's High Court of Justice, according to media reports.
Nizar Ayyash, the head of the Palestinian fishermen syndicate in Gaza, said that Israeli authorities informed the association that the vessels will be returned to their owners by sea on Wednesday.
According to sources the vessels were returned without their engines.
The coordinator of the Palestinian Fishermen’s Syndicate of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in Gaza Zakaria Bakr said that the court decision called for the return of 65 boats, according to reports.
The decision to return the boats comes after long legal proceedings after a petition was submitted by human rights groups Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights to the Israeli Supreme Court in January on behalf of Gaza fisherman Abdel Ma'ati Habil, whose boat was seized by the Israeli navy in September 2016, according to reports.
The petition called for Israel to return the boats along with their equipment which Israel has in the past kept when it returned boats to fishermen, according to reports.
On June 13th the Court was notified that Israel would return Habil’s boat “within two weeks” and the remaining boats would be returned by sea over the course of four months.
While the majority of boats will be returned by sea, Habil’s was returned through the Kerem Shalom crossing on Tuesday by Israel.
His boat sustained considerable damage from live fire during its seizure by the Israeli navy, and held without maintenance work causing authorities to have to return it by land as it could not be returned to the Strip by sea.
It took seven hours to cross due to logistical challenges, a statement by Adalah said, according to reports.
Habil estimates it will cost over $45,000 to repair it.
Spare parts and materials required for repairs are very difficult to obtain in the Gaza Strip as Israel severely restricts and even prevents the entry of items it defines as dual use, according to reports.
“Israel routinely seizes boats from fishermen in Gaza and holds them for months, even years, without legal authority and in violation of international law.
This punitive, violent and illegal measure causes severe harm to the fishing industry and to Gaza's economy, and must be stopped,” Adalah said Wednesday, according to reports.
Early on Wednesday Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets into the Mediterranean Sea, triggering rocket alert sirens in several Israeli communities bordering the Hamas-controlled enclave including the college town of Sderot, according to reports.
While the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that the sirens were a false alarm, according to some reports at least 10 rockets were fired into the sea from the northern Gaza Strip.
Incoming rocket sirens were also activated in southern Israel on Monday morning and were later ruled to be a false alarm, according to reports.
Last week Israeli officials confirmed that new understandings had been reached between Israel and Hamas regarding a possible long-term ceasefire arrangement between the two sides, , according to reports.