Israeli Navy sinks Gaza fishing boat, Palestinian media report

According to local outlets, vessel caught fire after being shot at; condition of those aboard unknown

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

Palestinian media on Saturday reported that the Israeli Navy fired on a Gaza fishing boat off the shores of the Palestinian enclave, causing it to sink.

The vessel caught fire after being shot at and sank, according to a report in Walla citing Palestinian outlets. It was not immediately clear how many people were on board and what condition they were in.

According to the Palestinian Information Center, there were two fishermen aboard the boat, who jumped ship and swam back to shore.

The incident occurred off the coast of Rafah, a Palestinian city near the Egyptian border, according to the report.

Israel has maintained a naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled coastal strip since the terror group took over the territory from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. It allows humanitarian aid into Gaza through Israel’s Ashdod Port, a measure Israel says is necessary to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons from overseas.

As part of the blockade, fishing boats and other seagoing vessels are limited to traveling close to the coast.

On Friday, the Palestinian trade union for fishermen said that Israel was to extend the distance off the Gaza Strip coast that some of the Palestinian territory’s fishermen are allowed to operate starting Sunday.

Fishing boats working out of ports in the southern part of the Strip will be allowed up to nine nautical miles off the coast, the chairman of the Gaza fishermen’s union, Nizar Ayyash, said.

He said that the previous six-mile limit would be retained in waters off the north of Gaza which neighbor those of Israel.

COGAT, the Defense Ministry body responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories, said on its Facebook page that ahead of the fishing season, the navy “decided to expand fishing south of Wadi Gaza from six to nine miles.”

The wadi, or stream bed, reaches the Mediterranean just south of Gaza City.

COGAT estimated the decision could add NIS 400,000 ($106,000; 93,000 euros) a year to the Gazan economy.

Around 4,000 fishermen work in Gaza, more than half of whom live below the poverty line.

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