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Israel postpones temporary expansion of Gaza fishing zone

Palestinian fishermen ride their boats as they return from fishing at the seaport of Gaza City on 26 September 2016. [REUTERS/Mohammed Salem]
Palestinian fishermen ride their boats as they return from fishing at the seaport of Gaza City on 26 September 2016. [REUTERS/Mohammed Salem]

Israeli authorities once again postponed the expansion of the Gaza Strip’s fishing zone yesterday, pushing it back three days.

The head of the media unit at the public committee of the Civil Affairs Ministry, Muhammad Al-Maqadma, told Ma’an that Israel decided to postpone the expansion of the fishing zone from six to nine nautical miles to Sunday.

Israeli authorities had previously postponed the temporary expansion on 30 October, citing poor weather.

Israeli authorities planned to expand the fishing zone off the northern Gaza coast for the duration of the month of November, with Israeli officials indicating that the extension could be effective for an additional month “if the Palestinian side maintains calmness at the maritime boundaries”.

Israel previously extended the fishing zone off Gaza’s southern coast to nine miles on 3 April, before reducing it again to six miles on 6 June, then re-extending the zone for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan due to an “abundance of fish” at the time.

As part of Israel’s blockade off the coastal enclave since 2007, Palestinian fishermen have been required to work within a limited “designated fishing zone”.

The exact limits of the zone are decided by the Israeli authorities and have historically fluctuated, most recently extended to six nautical miles from three, following a ceasefire agreement that ended Israel’s 2014 offensive on the Palestinian territory.

However, the fishing zone was technically set to 20 nautical miles according to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PA in the early 1990s.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has reported that Israeli naval forces often open fire on fishermen within these limits, putting their lives in danger on a near-daily basis.

Due to the high frequency of the attacks, live fire on fishing boats often goes unreported.

Last year Israeli naval forces opened fire on Palestinian fishermen at least 139 times, killing three, wounding dozens and damaging at least 16 fishing boats.

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