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Navy fired at from Gaza shore while arresting suspect at sea

Palestinian shot and wounded after failing to heed warnings to return to fishing zone; no Israelis hurt

Illustrative photo of Palestinian fishermen on a boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip, February 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Illustrative photo of Palestinian fishermen on a boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip, February 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israeli naval forces patrolling off the coast of the Gaza Strip were fired upon from the shore after shooting a Palestinian suspect during an arrest at sea, the army said Thursday morning.

No injuries were reported among Israeli forces.

The military said the incident occurred when navy forces identified a Palestinian boat deviating from permitted fishing zones off northern Gaza.

“IDF forces called the vessel to halt, firing warning shots into the air,” an army spokeswoman said. “Upon the continued advance, forces fired toward the area of the vessel to stop their advance, wounding a suspect.”

The suspect was arrested and taken to Ashdod port to receive medical care and to be questioned, while his boat was allowed to return to Gaza.

“During the activity, shots were fired at naval forces from the Gaza Strip,” the spokeswoman added.

She gave no further details and it appeared that navy forces did not return fire.

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since 2007 for fear of arms smuggling and bans fishing beyond nine nautical miles (16 kilometers) off the coast. Boats exceeding that limit are at risk of being considered suspicious, and may be fired upon as possible arms-smuggling vessels.

In July Palestinian media sources claimed seven fisherman were arrested by the navy off the Gaza coast, though the army did not confirm the incident at the time.

The navy has intercepted a number of arms-smuggling vessels in the past and accuses Hamas of “taking advantage” of a recent change in policy extending the fishing limit from six nautical miles.

In April the navy arrested a Hamas-affiliated smuggler off the coast, and accused him of bringing weapons and illegal building materials into the Strip.

Salim Jamal Hassan Naman, a resident of the al-Shati refugee camp, admitted to interrogators that he’d been involved in a naval smuggling operation for some time and had helped bring in weaponry and “materials used in the production of rockets, like fiberglass resin,” security officials said.

Raoul Wootliff and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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