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IDF arrests 7 Gaza fisherman for straying from coast

Men were aboard vessel returned to shore by Israeli naval forces after leaving 9 nautical mile limit

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

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)

Seven Gazan fisherman were arrested overnight Wednesday by the Israeli navy off the northern coast of the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian media sources.

The head of the Gazan fishermen union, Nizar Ayyash, told the Ma’an news agency that the men were all aboard one fishing boat that was stopped and taken to shore by the IDF.

The IDF spokesman’s unit could not immediately confirm the arrests and said it was looking into the reports.

Israel has imposed an eight-year blockade on Gaza for fear of arms smuggling and bans fishing beyond nine nautical miles (16 kilometers) off the coast. Boats exceeding that limit are at risk of being considered suspicious, and may be fired upon as possible arms-smuggling vessels.

The Israeli army has intercepted a number of arms-smuggling vessels in the past and accuses Hamas of “taking advantage” of a recent change in policy extending the fishing limit from six nautical miles.

In April the Israeli Navy arrested off the coast of Gaza a Hamas-affiliated smuggler who is accused of bringing weapons and illegal building materials into the Strip.

Salim Jamal Hassan Naman, a resident of the al-Shati refugee camp, admitted to interrogators that he’d been involved in a naval smuggling operation for some time and had helped bring in weaponry and “materials used in the production of rockets, like fiberglass resin,” the security service said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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