Israel re-expands Gaza Strip fishing zone to 10 nautical miles

Move comes after Qatari money enters Strip despite suspected balloon-borne incendiary device landing in Israeli border community

Palestinian fishing boats moored in the Gaza seaport in Gaza City, June 13, 2019. (AP/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinian fishing boats moored in the Gaza seaport in Gaza City, June 13, 2019. (AP/Hatem Moussa)

Israeli military sources confirmed Tuesday that the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip was to be reopened to a distance of 10 nautical miles from the coast, Hebrew media reported.

Tensions with Gaza have been steadily rising in recent weeks, with Israel blocking Gazan fishermen from access to the sea in response to multiple incendiary balloons being launched over the border. Some of the balloons have carried explosive devices, which have detonated in the air or on the ground inside Israeli territory. Last Wednesday Israel completely shut down the fishing zone.

Palestinian fishermen said earlier Tuesday they were told that from 10 a.m. they would be permitted to sail as far as the ten-mile limit. Off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip, which has a border with Israel, the fishing zone was limited to six nautical miles, the fishermen said.

The move came despite a cluster of balloons carrying a suspicious package landing in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, close to the Palestinian enclave, on Tuesday morning. Police sappers were called to investigate the incident and there were no reports of injuries or damage.

A balloon carrying an incendiary device is flown from the Gaza Strip on May 31, 2019 (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

The Kan public broadcaster, citing Egyptian media, reported that a delegation of Cairo security officials will arrive at the end of the week for visits to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip to discuss preserving a fragile calm along the Israel-Gaza border.

According to the report, Hamas has told Egyptian officials they they are not looking for an escalation in violence with Israel.

The developments came after a fresh surge in violence that began last Thursday, including two nights of rocket attacks and retaliatory air force strikes, and a wave of arson balloons sent into Israel.

On Sunday, as a fragile calm returned to the border region, a Qatari delegation led by envoy Mohammed al-Emadi entered the Gaza Strip with a fresh delivery of cash, according to Palestinian media reports.

Qatar’s point man for the Gaza Strip, envoy, Mohammed Al-Emadi, attends a press conference at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Feb. 19, 2018. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

The cash was to be distributed to needy families in Gaza on Monday, starting at 8 a.m., the reports said. However, by the end of the day, the money had still not been handed out, leading to frustration for some.

The cash injections were originally used to pay salaries of Hamas employees, but this was stopped after political opposition in Israel.

Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007 and seeks to destroy Israel, has complained that Israel is not fully implementing an unofficial ceasefire deal between the sides, while Jerusalem has accused Palestinian terror groups of breaching the understandings. The terror group has said it does not know who fired the rockets last week.

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