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Israel navy detains 2 fishermen off Gaza coast

Sept. 3, 2014 10:45 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 4, 2014 2:28 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained two Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip early Wednesday, an employee of a Gaza-based human rights organization told Ma'an.

Israeli warships obstructed Muhammad Zayid and Mousa al-Sultan while they were fishing off the coast of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip before arresting them and confiscating their boat, the employee said, requesting anonymity.

The Israeli forces took the two men to an unknown location, he added.

He noted that the Israeli navy had in two instances fired at Gaza fishermen on Tuesday under the pretext that they had surpassed fishing zone limits.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the fishermen "entered the prohibited fishing zone" near the northern Gaza Strip, and that soldiers told the fishermen to back away, fired warning shots into the air, and then "transferred the suspects" to an interrogation center.

The spokeswoman refused to provide information regarding the fishermen's distance from shore when they were arrested.

On Tuesday, fishermen told Ma'an Israeli forces fired at them with machine guns while they were fishing within the six-mile limit near Rafah, in an apparent breach of the ceasefire deal.

But the Israeli military said the fishermen were further than six nautical miles from shore, and that navy soldiers had only fired warning shots into the air.

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.

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.
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