By Julie Webb-Pullma
GAZA July 15, 2011: The Israeli navy today attacked international monitoring vessel Oliva and several Palestinian fishing boats in Gazan waters, for the second time in two days.
The Oliva, which monitors and documents Israeli attacks against Gaza fishermen, began its operations on 20 April 2011 under the auspices of the Spanish Civil Peace Service. The monitoring team is comprised of activists from Italy, Sweden, USA and the UK.
Aboard the Oliva during today’s attack were Joe Catron and Alexandra Robinson, both United States citizens, and the Palestinian captain, Salah Ammar.
Alexandra Robinson describing the attack at today’s press conference.Local fisherman Ayman Ali al-Habeel told the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights he was fishing when an Israeli gunboat opened fire indiscriminately on the eleven boats in the area, including his own, and that he and other fishermen called on the Oliva for help.
When the Oliva tried to go to their assistance, the Israeli naval forces attacked them with water cannons and live fire for some 45 minutes.
This morning’s attack left nine vessels badly damaged, with the Oliva’s crew having to abandon ship when the boat filled with water and the engine and radio were damaged. In a reversal of roles, they were rescued by fishermen, and taken back to port.
Meanwhile, Israeli gunboats continued to pursue the remaining fishing boats to within one nautical mile of shore, including that towing the Oliva.
At a Press Conference at the port of Gaza tonight, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemned the attacks.
PCHR spokesperson Khalil Shahin and Mafhouz Kabariti, Head of the Fishing and Marine Sports Association, emphasised the peaceful nature of the Oliva’s mission, noting that it is a civil mission in which both of their organisations participate, along with the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Co-ordination Committee of Popular Resistance, and numerous other local and international organisations.
They called on the international community to intervene to prevent further Israeli violations of international law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, to act to stop further Israeli attacks on the *Oliva*and on Gaza fishermen, and to lift the maritime blockade of Gaza.
Julie Webb-Pullman (click to view previous articles) is a New Zealand based freelance writer who has reported for Scoop since 2003. She recently managed to get into Gaza during a brief period when the Rafah Gate was open.