Israel re-expands Gaza fishing zone to 15 nautical miles

Move comes days after fishermen were restricted to area 10 miles off the coast, amid a rash of balloon attacks from the Strip

Palestinian fishermen clean a net after a night fishing trip, in the Gaza Seaport on April 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian fishermen clean a net after a night fishing trip, in the Gaza Seaport on April 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Israel announced Saturday night that, as of Sunday, the fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip will be re-expanded to 15 nautical miles (27.8 kilometers), four days after it was reduced to 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers) amid a rash of incendiary balloon attacks from the coastal Palestinian territory.

In a statement, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians said the move was “part of the civil policy of preventing humanitarian deterioration in the Gaza Strip.”

The liaison, Brig. Gen Kamil Abu-Rukun, said that the policy “distinguishes between terrorism” and Gaza’s civilian population and warned fishermen not to sail beyond the zone.

The move to reduce the zone to 10 nautical miles came last Wednesday, only one day after Israel expanded the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles, apparently under an unacknowledged ceasefire agreement with the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group.

The incendiary attacks that prompted the reduction appeared to violate the reported terms of the truce.

Recent weeks have seen tensions in the Gaza Strip soar, following a massive two-day flareup earlier this month between Israel and terror groups in the coastal enclave.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, the 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.

Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in the Eshkol region of southern Israel that was sparked by a balloon-borne incendiary device from the Gaza Strip on May 22, 2019. (Eli Cohen/Fire and Rescue Services)

Since March 30, 2018, Palestinians in Gaza have participated in regular protests along the border, demanding Israel lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave and calling for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now part of the Jewish state.

On Friday, Some 4,000 Palestinians demonstrated along the Gaza border — an unusually low turnout for the weekly protests.

The protests were also less intense than usual, likely due to the scorching heat wave and the Ramadan fast. Past demonstrations have seen protesters numbered in the tens of thousands.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reported 16 injured by gas inhalation and rubber bullets during riots at the border, including a volunteer medic and a journalist.

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