Israel Eases Gaza Maritime Blockade, Allows Fishing 10 Nautical Miles Out to Sea

Move comes less than a week after all fishing was banned 'until further notice' following launch of airborne firebombs

Palestinian fishermen mend a fishing net along the coast in Gaza on June 14, 2019.
AFP

Israel reopened the fishing zone surrounding the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles Tuesday morning, in response to relative quiet in the area.

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.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 31Haaretz

>> Read more: At odds with military, Netanyahu uses Gaza fishing zone for collective punishment | Analysis

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.

Extending and limiting Gaza's fishing zone.

In the past month, Netanyahu has ordered the fishing zone expanded, contracted or closed a number of times. The fishing season in Gaza are from Septamber to October and from April until the end of June. Netanyahu's restriction of the fishing zone comes at a critical period for Gazan fisherman, just weeks before the end of the season.

The fishing industry employs some 35,000 Gazans in the sale, marketing and distribution of fish. These numbers include 3,700 fishermen and another 1,500 people who are indirectly involved in fishing, as of April 2019, according to the fisherman's union in the Strip. Overall, between 5,000 and 6,000 are employed as fisherman, one quarter of the same figure a decade ago.