Israel Imposes Maritime Blockade on Gaza Over Launch of Airborne Firebombs

After eight fires broke out in Israel's south, army announces move following further reduction of Gaza fishing zone

Israeli farmer battles fire started by an incendiary device launched from Gaza Strip, near the Israel and Gaza border fence, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.
Tsafrir Abayov,AP

The Israeli army announced Wednesday a maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip "until further notice," after airborne firebombs launched from Gaza ignited eight fires in the country's south.

According to Israeli firefighting services, five fires broke out in the Eshkol Regional Council, along the Gaza border, where two other firebombs exploded over greenhouses. Two other fires broke out in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council and one in Netivot, also close to the border with Gaza.

By late Wednesday, all fires had been brought under control, Israeli firefighters said.

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“We are worried about the increase in the arson terror and about the damage it's causing to our nature and our agriculture," Eshkol Regional Council head Gadi Yarkoni said. "This is the second year that we’re hearing that 'this terror must stop,' but meanwhile it continues. It is becoming a regular part of our lives," he concluded.

Extending and limiting Gaza's fishing zone.

On Tuesday, seven fires were ignited by firebombs in Israeli border communities, after which Israel announced a further reduction in the Gaza fishing zone to six nautical miles.

Israel has been tailoring restrictions on the size of Gaza’s fishing zone in which Israel allows fishermen to operate in response to firebombs. In late May, Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) commander Major General Kamil Abu Rukon announced the Gaza fishing area would be expanded to 15 nautical miles (11 km), in a move described as "part of the civilian policy to prevent a humanitarian deterioration in the Gaza Strip."

The statement added that the step was taken "as part of a policy differentiating between terrorism and the uninvolved population," and that any deviation from the zone "will be handled appropriately by the security forces." Four days later, however, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the army to shrink the fishing zone back to 10 nautical miles (18.5 km), after airborne firebombs had been launched from Gaza toward Israel.