Israel Accuses Islamic Jihad of Rocket Launch, Limits Gaza Fishing Zone in Response

In unusual move, Israel names Islamic Jihad officials, saying the organization acted without Hamas' approval

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

Israel minimized on Tuesday the fishing zone for Gazans from 15 nautical miles down to six, after a rocket fired overnight Monday landed in Israeli waters.

The Israeli army said the rocket launched by Islamic Jihad was aimed at hitting one of Israeli communities along the border. It named Islamic Jihad officials directly, publishing their photos, and laid responsibility for the attack on the organization, an unsual move as it normally holds Hamas accountable for aggression coming out of the Strip.

"Facts in the field show Islamic Jihad does not submit to the authority of Hamas, acts without its knowledge and thus is expected to shirk responsiblity for Monday's incident," the Israeli army's statement said.

Aside from decreasing the fishing perimeter, no targets were struck so far by Israeli forces, as is usually the case after rocket fire. It is possible Israel is refraining from a military response to prevent a situation in which Hamas is forced to respond.

Islamic Jihad released a statement in response, saying, "Israel's accusations are part of an organized campaign of incitement against Islamic Jihad and its leadership, headed by Ziad al-Nakhalah, and is an excuse to act against the organization's leadership."

According to Adi Meiri, the spokeswoman of the Negev Regional Council, an Israel Defense Force assessment identified a rocket launched toward Israel that failed to reach its target. No sirens were sounded.

On Sunday, an aircraft and a tank attacked two Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, the military said. According to the statement, the attack was a response to shooting at Israeli soldiers stationed at the Gaza border. No injuries were reported.

Israel expanded the approved fishing zone for fishermen in the Strip to 15 nautical miles (equivalent to 28.8 kilometers from the shoreline) in the beginning of April, the maximum fishing range allowed in the Gaza Strip since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

At the time, fishermen in Gaza said the 15-mile range is partial, only applying to waters off the southern part of the Strip.