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Israel eases restrictions on Gaza fishermen, Palestinians say

While only applying to Strip’s southern half, new policy allows boats to travel up to 9 nautical miles off coast instead of 6

File: Palestinian fishing boats are seen at the sea port in Gaza City on April 1, 2016. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
File: Palestinian fishing boats are seen at the sea port in Gaza City on April 1, 2016. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

GAZA CITY — Israel has eased restrictions on Gaza fishermen, allowing them to travel up to nine nautical miles off the coast of the blockaded territory instead of the previous six, Palestinian officials said Wednesday.

The new policy was to take effect at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, said Mohammed al-Maqadma of the Palestinian office that coordinates with Israeli authorities.

It will however only apply to the southern half of the Gaza Strip, he said.

Nizar Ayash, head of the Gazan fishermen’s union, confirmed the change and said he hoped it would help alleviate difficult conditions for them.

Israeli authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Palestinian fishermen prepare fish for sale after a night long fishing trip, in Gaza seaport , Monday, April 4, 2016. (AP/ Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian fishermen prepare fish for sale after a night long fishing trip, in Gaza seaport , Monday, April 4, 2016. (AP/ Khalil Hamra)

The size of the fishing zone has varied over the years, having been set at 20 nautical miles by the Oslo accords of the 1990s before being reduced by Israeli authorities.

Israel previously extended the fishing zone to up to nine miles for several months in 2016. It was unclear how long the new enlargement would be in place.

Israel and Palestinian terrorists in Hamas-run Gaza have fought three wars since 2008 and the strip has been under an Israeli blockade for 10 years.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions, but Israel says it is needed to keep Hamas, the Islamist terror group which runs the strip, from importing weapons or materials used to make them.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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