GAZA (Reuters) - Israel on Sunday extended the distance it permits Gaza fishermen to head out to sea along certain parts of the coastline of the enclave, which is run by the Islamist group Hamas.
The fishing zone was expanded from six nautical miles (11 km) to nine (16 km) along Gaza’s central and southern shores, a step that Israeli authorities said should result in a bigger catch in deeper waters, where fish are more abundant.
Israel, citing security concerns that include fears of Hamas weapons smuggling, maintains a naval blockade of Gaza, and the zone will remain at six nautical miles in northern areas near the Israeli border.
Palestinians have complained of frequent Israeli interceptions and arrests of fishermen who have strayed from the zone and of the confiscation of their boats and equipment.
Nizar Ayyash, chairman of the Gaza fishermen’s union, called the expansion insufficient, noting that Israel’s interim Oslo peace deals with the Palestinians call for a 20 nautical mile (37 km)zone in the Mediterranean.
Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from the rival Fatah movement, and last fought a war with Israel in 2014, rejects the Oslo accords.
Ayyash said there are 4,000 fishermen in Gaza, home to 1.95 million people.
Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Andrew Bolton