The security establishment is going to expand the area off the Gaza coast where Palestinian fishermen will be permitted to fish for the next two months.
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The Israel Defense Forces spokesman announced that starting Wednesday, the area will be expanded from six nautical miles off some parts of the Gaza coast, to nine. The decision was made by the coordinator of government activities in the territories, along with the Israel Navy and IDF Southern Command.
The expanded fishing zone will only apply to the southern part of the Gaza coast, not to the entire coast. The nine-mile limit will only be in force until December. These months are considered the winter fishing season. Generally, security officials also allow Palestinian fisherman an expanded area during the April to June fishing season.
The expansion of the fishing zone six months ago increased the activity of Gaza’s fishermen and their income. According to the IDF spokesman, the expanded zone helped increase the fishermen’s revenues by half a million shekels ($175,000). Last year, the increase was even higher than that.
The military made it clear that expanding the fishing zone was conditional “on the Gaza fisherman upholding the agreements,” according to the IDF announcement. The statement also said the army would not allow exceptions to the range of maritime activity agreed on during meetings between the District Coordinating Office for Gaza, Israel Navy representatives and members of the Gaza Fisherman’s Union, the Palestinian Liaison Office and officials of the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry.
From time to time, Israeli naval forces work to push back Palestinian fisherman and boats that exceed the permitted limit. Sometimes shots are fired in the air or in the direction of the fishing boats to keep the Palestinian fishermen in line. A Palestinian fisherman, Mohammed Bakhar, was killed in May by IDF gunfire when he allegedly went beyond the authorized fishing area. The IDF said that he did not respond to the navy’s calls to stop.
Footage of the incident, which was first broadcast on Al Jazeera, does not appear to show the man posing a threat at the time he was shot.
This is the second consecutive year that Israel has increased the authorized fishing area for Gazans after a similar expansion from April to May last year led to a 15 percent increase in fishing from the coastal enclave with estimated profits of 1 million shekels.