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Israeli navy opens fire, sinks Palestinian fishing boat off Gaza coast

Oct. 16, 2014 9:58 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 18, 2014 7:43 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli naval forces on Thursday evening opened fire at a Palestinian fishing boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

Head of the fishermen's union in Gaza Nizar Ayyash told Ma'an that Israeli boats opened fire at boats belonging to local fisherman off the coast of Deir al-Balah.

A boat belonging to Jamal Abu Watfa was sunk in the attack.

Ayyash said the fisherman lost consciousness after the incident, but was reportedly saved from the water.

He added that the financial losses to the fisherman could reach more than JOD 100,000 ($140,000).

Since the signing of a ceasefire agreement that ended 50 days of fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Aug. 26, the Israeli navy has fired at Gaza fishermen in multiple instances under the pretext that they had surpassed fishing zone limits.

The Aug. 26 agreement stipulated that Israel would immediately expand the fishing zone off Gaza's coast, allowing fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore, and would continue to expand the area gradually.

The fisherman who have been shot at, and even at times detained by Israeli forces, have insisted that they were well within the six-mile limit.

Prior to 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 agreements which had settled on a 20-mile limit.

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

The Israeli blockade in place since 2006 has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip -- include materials necessary for building fishing boats -- and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans.
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