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Israel extends Gaza fishing zone for Ramadan and due to 'abundance of fish'

June 20, 2016 10:05 P.M. (Updated: June 23, 2016 3:35 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities decided on Sunday to temporarily expand the designated fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip to nine nautical miles, the head of Gaza’s fishermen union told Ma'an.

The decision is to remain effective until June 26, after which the zone will presumably be reduced back to six miles.

It was not immediately clear if the extension applied only to the southern Gaza Strip as similar previous decisions had, or to the entirety of Gaza's coast.

Israel extended the zone to nine miles for some parts of the Gaza Strip on April 3 before reducing it again to six miles on June 6.

Following the reduction, Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said the extension had only intended to be implemented temporarily for the duration of the fishing season.

Regarding the most recent decision, COGAT released a statement Monday saying the extension was made "on the occasion of Ramadan and due to abundance of fish this season."

"We hope that fishermen respect understandings and agreements and do not violate the available fishing area, and to take advantage of this step to benefit the people of Gaza," the statement added.

As part of Israel's blockade off the coastal enclave since 2007, Palestinian fishermen have been required to work within a limited "designated fishing zone."

The exact limits of the zone are decided by the Israeli authorities and have historically fluctuated, most recently extended to six nautical miles from three, following a ceasefire agreement that ended Israel's 2014 offensive on the Palestinian territory.

However, the fishing zone was technically set to 20 nautical miles according to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PA in the early 1990s.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights has reported that Israeli naval forces often open fire on fishermen within these limits, putting their lives in danger on a near-daily basis.

Due to the high frequency of the attacks, live fire on fishing boats often goes unreported.

Last year Israeli naval forces opened fire on Palestinian fishermen at least 139 times, killing three, wounding dozens, and damaging at least 16 fishing boats.

The Israeli army often says in such circumstances that the use of live fire is necessary to deter potential "security threats,” a policy that has in effect destroyed much of the agricultural and fishing sectors of the impoverished Palestinian territory, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.

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