Despite ongoing balloon attacks, IDF extends Gaza fishing zone again

Military allows Palestinians to sail up to 15 nautical miles from shore, days after restricting area to 10 miles

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Palestinian fishing boats are seen in the Mediterranean Sea at the port in Gaza City on May 10, 2019. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Palestinian fishing boats are seen in the Mediterranean Sea at the port in Gaza City on May 10, 2019. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Israel again extended the permitted fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, despite the ongoing launching of balloon-borne incendiary devices from the coastal enclave, after having reduced it last week in response to similar attacks.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, at least three fires were sparked by incendiary balloons in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, according to the local fire department.

Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, known formally as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, confirmed that the fishing zone had been extended to 15 nautical miles (27.8 kilometers) from 10 (18.5 kilometers).

A COGAT spokesperson refused to comment on the decision to do so despite the ongoing arson attacks — the nominal cause of the previous reduction.

An Israeli fireman extinguishes flames in a burning field next to Kibbutz Beeri reportedly caused by inflamable material attached to kites and flown across the border to Israel from the Gaza Strip on May 15, 2019. (Photo by Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

For the past months, Israel has been extending and reducing the permitted fishing zone around the Gaza Strip as fewer or more incendiary balloons have been sent over the border.

Such arson attacks appear to violate the reported terms of an unofficial truce between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

Recent months have seen heightened tensions in the Gaza Strip, including a massive two-day flareup last month between Israel and terror groups in the coastal enclave.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, the Egyptian-brokered agreement that ended that flareup included a Hamas obligation to halt violent incidents along the border fence, maintaining a buffer zone 300 meters from the border; an end to the launching of incendiary balloons at Israeli communities and nighttime clashes between Gazans and security forces; and a stop to flotillas trying to break through the maritime border between Gaza and Israel.

In return, Israel reportedly agreed to expand the fishing zone, enable United Nations cash-for-work programs, allow medicine and other civil aid to enter the Strip, and open negotiations on matters relating to electricity, crossings, healthcare and funds.

Though Israel does not formally recognize the ceasefire agreement, it has largely abided by the terms of it. Hamas, in turn, has also kept violence along the border to a relative minimum — with the exception of the ongoing balloon-based attacks.

Most Popular
read more: