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Gaza fishermen protest Israel blockade

July 1, 2013 5:36 P.M. (Updated: July 2, 2013 10:30 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Hundreds of fishermen gathered in Gaza City on Monday to protest Israel's blockade on the coastal territory.

Abu Zakariya Baker, an official in the Agricultural Work Committee, told Ma'an that Israel has tortured, shot and killed Palestinian fishermen since the blockade was tightened seven years ago.

"Israel is practicing all kinds of psychological humiliation against fishermen, often stripping them of their clothes while arresting them, even in times of extreme cold," Baker said, urging the international community to prosecute Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.

Gaza fisherman Rami Abu Amira told Ma'an that he joined the protest to demand that Israel ends the sea blockade on Gaza and increase the fishing zone.

"Israeli forces open fire at us on a daily basis, detain fishermen and confiscate their boats. We want to live in dignity and freedom and we ask the whole international community to stand by our side."

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of arrests and attacks against fishermen since Israel's assault on Gaza last November, Baker said.

Over 50 fishermen have been arrested and eleven fishing boats destroyed last year, he added.

In May, the Israeli government re-extended Gaza's fishing zone to six miles, after reducing it in March following a rocket attack from the coastal territory.

The zone had been extended to six miles as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended an eight-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in November.

In the Oslo Accords, Israel agreed to a 20-nautical-mile fishing zone off Gaza's coast but it imposed a 3-mile limit for several years, opening fire at fishermen who strayed further.

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

Israel imposed restrictions on trade to Gaza in 2001 following the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising and tightened them further in 2007 after Hamas took over in the coastal enclave adjacent to Egypt, which also enforces a blockade.

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