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Israeli warships 'shell Gaza coast,' critically injure fisherman

Dec. 3, 2014 1:01 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 6, 2014 3:34 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian fisherman was critically injured on Wednesday after Israeli warships fired several shells toward the coast near Gaza City, a union official said.

Nizar Ayyash, head of the Gaza fishermen's union, told Ma'an that fisherman Fakher Nizar Abu Riyaleh, 32, was critically injured in the head by shrapnel from Israeli shells.

Abu Riyaleh was taken to al-Shifa hospital for treatment.

An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma'an she was not familiar with any shells fired at the Gaza City coast.

She said that there was a Palestinian "vessel" that deviated from the "permitted fishing zone," and that Israeli forces fired warning shots in the air.

The spokeswoman said no shots were fired at the vessel and that there were no hits confirmed.

A ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza on Aug. 26 stipulated that Israel would ease its blockade on the Strip and lighten restrictions on fishermen.

Since the agreement, Israeli forces have opened fire regularly at Gaza fishermen, saying they have veered outside the "designated fishing zone" which ends six nautical miles from shore.

But there have been widespread reports that fishermen have been fired upon even within those boundaries.

Prior to the recent agreement, Israeli forces maintained a limit of three nautical miles on all Gaza fishermen, opening fire at fishermen who strayed further, despite earlier agreements which had settled on a 20-mile limit.

The restrictions crippled Gaza's fishing industry and impoverished local fishermen.

Israel also maintains a buffer zone near its border with Gaza, opening fire on Palestinian farmers working on their agricultural land in the area.

On Nov. 23, Fadil Muhammad Halawah, 32, was shot dead by Israeli forces east of Jabaliya. Witnesses say he was hunting birds at the time.
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