A temporary extension imposed by Israeli authorities, on the designated fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip, expired on Sunday, reducing the zone to six nautical miles after it had been set to nine miles, for one week.
Head of Gaza’s fishermen union Nizar Ayyash told Ma’an News Agency that Israeli authorities, at midnight, confirmed to the union via the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture that the zone would be reduced.
“A nine-mile zone is already a narrow fishing zone, so can you imagine the challenge when we are forced to sail within six miles,” Ayyash said, adding that fish were abundant only after the nine-mile point from the shore.
Some fishermen said that reducing the fishing zone from nine to six miles would allow only 30 percent of fishermen to go on fishing trips because the area was too narrow for all Gaza fishermen.
Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories COGAT released a statement, last Monday, leading up to the extension, saying that it had been made “on the occasion of Ramadan, and due to abundance of fish this season.”
“We hope that fishermen respect understandings and agreements and do not violate the available fishing area, and to take advantage of this step to benefit the people of Gaza,” the statement added.
Furthermore, Zakariyya Abu Bakr, the head of the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees slammed, on Sunday, Israel’s treatment of fishermen in the Gaza Strip.
“The (Israeli) occupation created a big fuss when they extending the zone to nine nautical miles for the fishermen, though Israeli assaults against fishermen have only increased during that period.”
Israeli gunboats opened fire at Palestinian fishermen on at least one occasion, over the past week, though due the high frequency of such incidents, live fire on fishing boats often go unreported. According to UN documentation, Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinians in Gaza’s border areas on land and sea on at least 22 occasions, between June 14 and 20.
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.
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 impoverished coastal Palestinian territory, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.
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