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Israeli warships fire at fishermen off Gaza coast

March 18, 2014 11:00 P.M. (Updated: March 20, 2014 10:35 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli warships late Monday fired at Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip, fishermen said.

Fishermen told Ma'an Israeli forces fired at them off the coast of Khan Younis. No injuries were reported, but the fishermen said they were forced to sail back to shore.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the boat had "deviated from its designated fishing zone."

"Israeli navy soldiers called on the boat to stop, but once it failed to comply, they opened fire in its vicinity" and it returned to its designated area.

The incident comes a day after the Israeli military exchanged fire with Palestinian militants on the shore in southern Gaza in a late-night face-off.

Explaining Sunday night's incident, the spokeswoman said the Israeli navy had "identified a Palestinian vessel veering into Egyptian territory."

When the boat returned to Palestinian waters, Israeli forces called on the vessel to stop, she said. When it did not stop, Israeli forces "fired shots, identifying a hit."

She would not specify whether the shot hit a boat or a fisherman, but only that "the target" was hit.

Palestinian militants on the shore then fired at the Israeli ship, and the Israeli navy fired back, with no injuries or damage reported, she added.

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.

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