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Hamas says fishing limit to extend under ceasefire deal

Nov. 24, 2012 1:51 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 26, 2012 10:18 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) – Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian officials representing the Hamas-run government in Gaza will meet next Monday in Cairo to discuss the aftermath of the ceasefire agreement.

The Office of Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said he was informed by the director of Egyptian intelligence that Israel agreed to allow Gaza fishermen to go six nautical miles off the coast of Gaza instead of three, which has been the limit under Israel's siege.

"Israel has allowed Palestinian fishermen to fish in Gaza's waters at a distance of six miles, up from three miles," Haniyeh's office said.

Israel had no immediate comment.

Murad al-Issi, a member of a local fishermens' group, told Reuters his colleagues had already ventured out to the six-mile limit on Saturday, undisturbed by Israel.

"The Israeli army naval boat which used to fire and torch Palestinian boats that sailed beyond a three-mile distance watched without doing anything to prevent them," Issi said.

Palestinians say the Israeli restrictions had hampered the amount and variety of fish they could catch.

"This is a good step," Issi said, adding it would be best to be permitted double the distance.

In another apparent Israeli step to ease restrictions, Palestinian farmers tended land along the frontier with Israel without incident, a day after Israeli troops killed a Palestinian man at a border fence.

Gaza security officials were on patrol and Israeli soldiers looked on without interfering, but for a brief verbal exchange between one soldier and a Hamas guard, witnesses said.

Palestinians denounced Friday's shooting as a violation of the ceasefire and Egypt intervened to restore calm.

Haniyeh's office said in a statement that the border zone would also be addressed in Monday's meeting, among other things.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agreed on a 20-nautical-mile fishing zone off Gaza's coast under the Oslo Accords, but Israel unilaterally imposes a 3-mile limit.

Israeli warships frequently open fire at boats that allegedly stray from the permitted area.

Israel has controlled Gaza waters since its occupation of the area in 1967, and has kept several warships stationed off the coast since 2008.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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