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Israel extends expanded Gaza fishing zone for two more weeks

Naval blockade eased for Ramadan; fishermen allowed to travel up to 9 nautical miles off coastal territory

Illustrative. Palestinian fishermen at the Gaza City port, May 13, 2015. (Aaed Tayeh/Flash90)
Illustrative. Palestinian fishermen at the Gaza City port, May 13, 2015. (Aaed Tayeh/Flash90)

Israel on Monday extended for another two weeks the expanded Mediterranean fishing zone granted for Palestinian fisherman living in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, Israel eased restrictions imposed by its naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled strip by allowing Palestinian fishermen to travel up to nine nautical miles off the coast, instead of the previous six.

Fishing is the second biggest income-earner in the coastal territory, generating NIS 6 million ($1.7 million) each year, and the zone extension is expected to allow fisherman to bump that figure by an additional NIS 1 million ($280,000), the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli government agency that oversees Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, said in a statement.

The fishing season reaches its height in May and June.

The size of the fishing zone has varied over the years. It was set at 20 nautical miles by the Oslo peace accords in the 1990s before being reduced to six miles under the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas took over the Strip in a violent coup against the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in 2007.

Gaza fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip on April 3, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Gaza fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip on April 3, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Israel last extended the fishing zone to nine miles for several months in 2016.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

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

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