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Israeli warships open fire at fishermen off Gaza coast

Sept. 2, 2014 10:43 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 3, 2014 7:10 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces opened fire at fishermen off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, in apparent violation of the ceasefire agreement reached with Palestinian factions a week ago, fishermen said.

Palestinian fishermen told Ma'an that Israeli warships used machine guns to fire at their boats while they were sailing within the agreed-upon six-nautical-mile limit near Rafah.

No injuries were reported.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said fishermen "deviated from the designated fishing zone," and that navy soldiers fired warning shots into the air.

The fishermen then "backed away," the spokeswoman said.

Asked how far the fishermen were sailing from shore, the spokeswoman said she did not know the exact distance, but that it was further than six nautical miles.

Prior 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 Israeli agreements which had settled on a 20-mile limit. The restrictions crippled Gaza's fishing industry and impoverished local fishermen.

A ceasefire agreement reached on Aug. 26 stipulated that Israel would immediately expand the fishing zone off Gaza's coast, allowing fishermen to sail as many as six nautical miles from shore, and would continue to expand the area gradually. Under the terms of the deal, Israel also agreed to ease its siege on the coastal enclave.

Other unresolved issues such as the construction of a seaport and airport, the release of prisoners, and the demilitarization of factions in Gaza were to be negotiated a month later in Cairo.

Israel's assault on Gaza lasted seven weeks, left over 2,100 Palestinians dead and over 11,000 injured, the vast majority of them civilians. Some 71 Israelis also died in the fighting, 66 of them soldiers.
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