March 7th, 2021: Yahia Mustafa Lahham, 29, was one of three fishermen killed, while another was seriously injured, near Khan Younis in the southern part of the besieged Gaza Strip, due to an explosion in their boat. The Israeli army said it had nothing to do with the incident, but a full investigation of the incident by the Palestinian Authority in Gaza found that the explosion was called by an Israeli-placed floating bomb that had been dropped by a drone on February 22nd.
The three were identified as Mohammad Hijazi Lahham, 27, his brother Zakariya Hijazi Lahham, 24, and their cousin Yahia Mustafa Lahham, 29. One other fisherman from the same family was seriously injured in the incident.
A week after the incident, the Hamas-led Interior Ministry in Gaza released the results of its investigation into the deaths of the three fishermen off the coast of Gaza near Khan Younis. The Ministry collected evidence, and based their investigation on three possibilities:
- That the boat was hit by a misfire from resistance fighters in training
- That the Israeli navy targeted and fired at the boat
- That the boat struck an unexploded mine in the water
The investigators went to the training site of the al-Qassam Brigades and checked the surveillance video and the distance range of each of the rockets there. Knowing the range of the rockets, and checking forensic and video evidence, the investigators ruled out this possibility.
By collecting testimonies from the fishermen and the Palestinian naval police, and by collecting recordings from surveillance cameras, it became clear that the Israeli navy did not fire missiles at the boats.
The investigation committee concluded that this explosion was tied to a previous incident, which took place on February 22nd in Khan Younis sea, near the location where the explosion took place in the boat.
During this incident, the Israeli Navy used Quad Copter drones to drop floating bombs in the sea. These bombs carry powerful explosives, and are like ‘landmines’ on the sea in that the impact is usually on innocents.
After collecting all evidence from the explosion site in the sea, and after receiving into custody the destroyed boat and nets, the investigators concluded:
- Nearly 30 minutes before the explosion took place, two fishermen found an Israeli quad copter drone stuck in their nets near the location of the explosion. They managed to remove it and give it to the Palestinian naval police.
- The remains of another quad copter drone was found stuck in the nets of the three slain fishermen, after the divers collected the wreckage.
- The investigators found the backside of the boat and other parts of the boat, and concluded that the explosion took place under the right side of the boat.
- By comparing the quad copter that was found by the fishermen to the remains of the quad copter found in the wreckage of the exploded boat, the two were of similar make.
- Forensics experts found that the fishermen were killed by the explosive shock and shrapnel was not found in their bodies.
- Following all of the evidence, the investigators concluded that Israel is fully responsible for the deaths of the three fishermen on March 7th in Khan Younis Sea.
The Ministry called on national, international, legal and human rights groups to take a stand and call for an end to Israel’s continued violations against the Palestinian people and their humanity.
Prior to launching the investigation, the Ministry released a statement, “We express our sincere condolences to the families of Mohammad Hijazi Saleh Lahham, Zakariya Hijazi Saleh Lahham, and Yahia Mustafa Saleh Lahham,” the brigades said, “We will investigate this painful incident and will reveal the whole truth as soon as possible.”
In a statement issued by the Israeli army on its official Twitter account, the spokesperson denied any relation to the incident, and added: “our indications show that their deaths were caused by an explosion inside Gaza.”
On the same day, the soldiers stationed on military towers and in armored vehicles across the perimeter fence, fired many live rounds at Palestinian farmers and shepherds, east of Khan Younis.
The farmers and the shepherds had to leave their lands in fear of further Israeli military violations.
Yahia was from Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Source: IMEMC