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Union: 3 fishermen detained by Israeli navy

March 5, 2010 10:08 A.M. (Updated: March 5, 2010 8:54 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – Israeli navy guards detained three Gazan fishermen just off the shores of Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on Friday, the head of the local Fishermen's Union said.

Nizar Ayyash identified the three fishermen as Nafeth Al-Aqra, Muhammad Nabil and Muhammad Al-Aqra, all from central Gaza. He said they were taken, along with their vessel, to an unknown location.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said naval officers fired warning shots in the air at the boat, which was reportedly leaving the three-nautical-mile fishing zone off the Gaza coast. When the boat neither halted progress nor returned to shore, naval boats detained the men for questioning, the spokeswoman said.

The official also confirmed that the boat was taken to the port in Ashdod while the men were questioned.

On Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that fishermen, "cut off from plentiful fishing grounds by Israeli patrol boats — have turned to sneaking into Egyptian waters in tiny motorboats to buy their catch and bring it home," and even "bring[ing] in fish by land, in ice-packed plastic foam boxes pulled through smuggling tunnels from Egypt."

Israeli forces continue to enforce access restrictions on fishing areas beyond three nautical miles from the shore, a restriction imposed since January 2009, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its first February Protection of Civilians report.
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