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Israeli forces open fire at Gaza fishermen

April 1, 2015 10:47 A.M. (Updated: April 3, 2015 11:52 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli war boats opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats across the shores of the al-Sudaniyya area in the northwestern Gaza Strip early Wednesday, according to witnesses.

Witnesses told Ma'an that the Israeli forces opened fire at three boats, preventing them from fishing in an area of 2 nautical miles.

An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma'an she wasn't aware of any incidents off the coast Wednesday morning.

In past incidents, Israeli spokespersons have told Ma'an that deviations by fishing boats from the fishing zone are perceived by Israeli forces as a security threat, citing an incident in February in which a vessel was allegedly caught outside of the fishing zone with arms intended for Hamas.

Palestinian fishermen have increasingly become targets for Israeli forces, facing near daily harassment and interference with their work. As part of last summer's ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, Israel initially agreed to expand the fishing zone off Gaza's coast, allowing fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore, and to continue to expand the area gradually.

Despite this agreement, over thirty attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinian fisherman have have been reported since Sept. 1 by Gaza-based watchdog al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, however due to the normalcy of such incidents, attacks often go unreported.

The center also said that 49 fisherman had been detained, 17 injured, and 12 fishing boats confiscated in the same period.

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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