(PNN archive image)
Israeli authorities postponed, for the third time, a planned temporary expansion of the besieged Gaza Strip’s fishing zone, on Sunday, claiming that Palestinian officials have not fulfilled their commitments.
An Israeli official said that the temporary expansion of the northern Gaza Strip’s fishing zone would take place once Palestinian authorities in Gaza “carry out their commitments”, which include placing a ship to observe the area, to monitor any violations.
The head of Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Yoav Mordechai, said, on his official Facebook page, that the expansion had been postponed until Sunday, but that “your representatives did not implement what was agreed on.”
It remained unclear, from the statement, as to how long the expansion would be postponed.
According to Ma’an News Agency, this marks the third time in the span of a week that Israel has decided to postpone the expansion of the fishing zone from six to nine nautical miles.
Israeli authorities had previously postponed the temporary expansion on Oct. 30, citing poor weather, and again on Thursday.
Israeli authorities had 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 April 3, before reducing it again to six miles on June 6, 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 Center 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.
The Israeli army often says, in such circumstances, that the use of live fire is necessary to deter potential “security threats,” a policy which has, in effect, destroyed much of the agricultural and fishing sectors of the blockaded Palestinian enclave.
See archive IMEMC post: 12/21/14 94 Israeli Ceasefire Violations Since August