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Gaza fisherman dies after Israeli forces fire on boats

March 7, 2015 2:00 P.M. (Updated: March 13, 2015 8:13 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) – Israeli naval forces shot and killed a Palestinian fisherman, and arrested two others while they were sailing in small fishing boats off the coast south of Gaza City early Saturday morning.

Speaker of the union of Gaza fishermen Nizar Ayyash told Ma'an that Israeli gunboats opened machine gun fire at a group of Palestinian fishermen. Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra confirmed to Ma'an that Tawfiq Abu Riyala died from injuries sustained by the fire.

Ayyash added that Israeli navy then seized two fishing boats and took them to unknown destination.

An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma'an that after four vessels deviated from the fishing zone this morning, Israeli forces ordered the vessels to halt. Warning shots were fired towards the engines of the vessels, and two hits were confirmed. Two of the vessels were detained by Israeli forces, the other two turning back.

The spokeswoman added that every deviation by fishing boats from the fishing zone is perceived by Israeli forces as a security threat, citing an incident last month in which a vessel was caught outside of the fishing zone with arms intended for Hamas.

The Aug. 26 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinian militant groups 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.

Since then, there have been widespread reports that Israeli forces have routinely opened fire at fishermen within those new limits, and the zone has not been expanded.

The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights reported that since the ceasefire agreement Israeli forces have detained 49 Palestinian fishermen, injured 17, confiscated 12 fishing boats and damaged fishing tools in nine other incidents.

Recent targeting of Gazan fishermen comes at a time when economic growth in the coastal enclave is near frozen and 80 percent of the population is food insecure, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

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