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Israel to temporarily extend Gaza fishing zone

Oct. 25, 2016 3:58 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 25, 2016 5:27 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities have decided to temporarily expand the designated fishing zone off the northern coast of the besieged Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials told Ma’an on Tuesday.

According to the official, Israeli authorities will expand the northern coastal fishing zone from the current six nautical mile limit, to nine nautical miles for the duration of the month of November.

At the end of November, the zone will presumably be reduced back to six nautical miles, officials said.

The officials added that Israeli authorities said they may allow the extension to stay effective for another month, “if the Palestinian side maintains calmness at the maritime boundaries.”

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports of the temporary extension.

Israel previously extended the fishing zone off Gaza’s southern coast to nine miles on April 3, before reducing it again to six miles on June 6, then re-extending the zone for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan due to an “abundance of fish” at the time.

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
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