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Palestinian fisherman critically injured in Israeli naval attack

Jan. 3, 2015 9:59 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 4, 2015 3:56 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian fisherman was critically injured early Saturday after an Israeli warship opened fire on his vessel off the coast of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

The incident came as a number of Israeli military vehicles reportedly crossed the border near Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, razing agricultural land in a limited incursion in violation of the August ceasefire.

Medical sources said that Israeli forces opened fire with machine guns before firing a shell at a small fishing boat belonging to a Gaza resident identified as Jamal Numan, a resident of al-Shati refugee camp in western Gaza City.

The sources said that Numan was critically injured in the attack, and was taken to Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah for treatment.

They said that Numan's fishing vessel was completely destroyed by the shell fired by Israeli forces.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that the Israeli military "identified two vessels in the southern Gaza Strip approaching the Egyptian border in an attempted smuggling attempt.

"They called on suspects to halt and fired warning shots into the air," she added, and opened fire at the vessels after they "failed to comply."

"One vessel returned to the shore and the other sank," she said, adding that the "suspects were identified returning to shore."

Also on Saturday morning, Israeli military vehicles crossed the border into Palestinian agricultural lands in the region of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

Sources said that the vehicles exited a military base on the Israeli side of the border before crossing into Gaza and razing agricultural land belonging to local farmers.

The sources added that the limited incursion was accompanied by heavy gunfire in the direction of local homes.

An Israeli military spokeswoman asked about the incident denied that any incursion incurred.

An official in the Gaza Fishermen's Union told Ma'an earlier this week that Israeli attacks had destroyed a total of 52 Palestinian fishermen's boats in 2014, in addition to 56 individuals who were detained at sea.

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.

There are 4,000 fishermen in Gaza. According to a 2011 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross 90 percent are poor, an increase of 40 percent from 2008 and a direct result of Israeli limits on the fishing industry.
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