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Hamas shuts Gaza port to mourn slain fisherman

Interior ministry in Palestinian enclave says 3-day closure meant to protest Israeli violations against Strip residents

Palestinian fishermen sit in their boat off the shores of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, as an Israeli patrol is seen in the distance, March 26, 2014. (AFP/Said Khatib)
Palestinian fishermen sit in their boat off the shores of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, as an Israeli patrol is seen in the distance, March 26, 2014. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Hamas authorities decided on Sunday to close the Gaza port for three days, following the killing Saturday of a Palestinian fisherman off the Gazan coast.

The Hamas interior ministry said it would shut the port as a gesture of mourning for the 34-year-old fisherman shot by Israeli naval forces and in solidarity with all Palestinian fishermen.

In a statement, the ministry said the closure was meant to protest violations by Israel against Gazans, according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu.

Palestinian health officials said Saturday that Tawfiq Abu Riala was shot by Israeli forces aboard one of several vessels off the coast and later died of his wounds.

Two other Gaza fishermen were arrested, said a Gaza health ministry spokesman.

The Israeli military said its forces identified a number of vessels that had “deviated from the designated fishing zone” and ordered them to halt their progress. When the vessels did not comply, the forces opened fire at their engines to stop them, the military said.

It was not clear how the fisherman ended up in the line of fire.

Israel maintains a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip to prevent the smuggling of weapons to the coastal strip’s Islamic Hamas leaders and other terror groups that operate in the territory.

Following last summer’s 50-day war in Gaza, Israel agreed to double the permitted fishing zone for Gazans to six nautical miles. It recently also loosened restrictions to allow Gaza fishermen to export their catch to the West Bank for the first time since 2007.

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