Israel Expands Gaza Fishing Zone to Furthest in Over Two Decades After Flare-up

Following 'restrained' border protests on Saturday, Israel permits fishing up to 15 nautical miles from shore, up from nine miles before zone was most recently closed

A general view shows the fishing port in Gaza City, March 25, 2019.
AFP

Israel expanded the approved fishing zone for Gazans to 15 nautical miles (equivalent to 28.8 kilometers from the shoreline) on Monday, the military said. This is the maximal fishing range allowed in the Gaza Strip since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Fishermen in Gaza say the 15-mile range is partial, only applying to waters off the southern part of the Strip.

The expansion is pursuant to “civilian policy to prevent humanitarian deterioration in the Gaza Strip, and policy that distinguishes between terrorism and the uninvolved population,” according to the coordinator of government activities in the territories.

According to Nizar Ayyash, the chairman of the Gaza Fishermen's Association, 15 nautical miles is the permitted range in the southern strip, but in the center it is 12 nautical miles and in the north just six.

A senior source in one of the Palestinian factions told Haaretz on Sunday that opening the crossing points restores the situation in the Gaza Strip to what it had been before the escalation last week, and that neither traders nor the residents view the change as relief.

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Dozens of fishing boats went out to sea Monday morning, hoping to make up for lost time. Prohobition on fishing and closing of all land crossings went into effect last week after a rocket hit a house in central Israel , injuring seven people.

On Saturday, Palestinians held mass protests on the border with Israel. The Palestinian health authorities say that during the protests, three 17-year-old Palestinian boys were shot to death and 316 other Palestinians were injured and taken to hospital. Ten are in serious to critical condition, the health authorities say. Israeli sources expressed satisfaction with the fact that Hamas kept control of the events, after which crossing points were reopened and the fishing zone expanded.

The following day, due to Egyptian mediation between Israel and the Hamas leadership in Gaza, Israel reopened the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossing points to both merchandise and people.

Husam Badran, a member of Hamas' political wing, said in an interview  on Sunday that Hamas and other factions had reached understandings with Israel about a package deal concerning day-to-day life in the Strip. The understandings and undertakings involve not only Israel but the UN, Egypt and Qatar, Badran said, adding that Qatar would be playing a significant role in implementation. Qatari money enables direct aid to almost every household in the Strip, he said.