Unloading fishing boats in Gaza port
Ma’an News Agency report, Gaza City, 31 May 2016
Israeli authorities have decided to reduce the allowed fishing zone off the coast of the besieged Gaza Strip only two months after they had extended it, the spokesperson for the Gaza fishermen’s union told Ma’an on Monday.
Nizar Ayyash told Ma’an that the Israeli authorities notified the Palestinian liaison office that the fishing zone off the southern coast of the Gaza Strip, which had been extended to nine nautical miles in early April, would return to its previous size of six nautical miles along the entire coast of the blockaded Palestinian enclave.
In response to request for comment, a spokesperson for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told Ma’an that the extension had only intended to be implemented for the duration of the fishing season, despite the fact that reports in April did not reflect the decision was meant to be temporary.
“(COGAT) and the commander of the Israeli Navy had decided on the expansion of the fishing zone in Gaza from six nautical miles to nine nautical miles for the fishing season,” the statement read.
“This step, aimed to promote the fishing sector, started on April 3 and is expected to end on June 6, as the fishing zone is over.”
Ayyash asserted that the reduction would have a negative impact on the already floundering fishing industry in the Palestinian territory.
As part of Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave since 2007, Palestinian fishermen have been required to work within a limited “designated fishing zone” off the coast.
The exact limits of the zone are decided by the Israeli authorities and have historically fluctuated, and was extended in 2014 to six nautical miles from three, following a ceasefire agreement that ended Israel’s offensive on the Palestinian territory.
However, the fishing zone was technically set to 20 nautical miles according to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PA in the early 1990s.The Palestinian Center for Human Rights has reported that Israeli naval forces often open fire on fishermen within these limits, putting their lives in danger on a near-daily basis.
Due to the high frequency of the attacks, live fire on fishing boats often goes unreported.
The Israeli army often says in such circumstances that the use of live fire is necessary to deter potential “security threats,” a policy that has in effect destroyed much of the agricultural and fishing sectors of the impoverished Palestinian territory, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.