Gaza fishing ban lifted as calm returns

Gaza City: Israel lifted a ban on Friday on Palestinian fishing boats operating off Gaza, an Israeli military body said, ending a measure imposed during a deadly flare-up of violence earlier this month.
The fishing union in Gaza confirmed the lifting of the ban, saying the new limits imposed by Israel were 12 nautical miles in the southern half of Gaza, and six nautical miles in the north.
The Israeli navy often fires on Gazan boats it says have exceeded the limits.
Zakaria Bakr, an official with the fishing union, said a number of boats began fishing on Friday, the first in the holy month of Ramadhan.
The measure is seen as a first step in implementing a fragile truce meant to avert a new conflict between the army and Palestinian activists.
“Friday, the Gaza Strip fishing zone is expected to reopen at a range of up to 12 nautical miles,” COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for the Palestinian territories, said.
“Application of the measure is conditioned on the Gaza Strip fishermen respecting the agreements.”
Hamas and its ally IJ fired hundreds of rockets at Israel on Saturday and Sunday, with the army striking dozens of targets in Gaza in response.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine activists, were killed in the two-day flare-up.
COGAT closed the fishing zone and the border crossings for both people and goods between Israel and Gaza in response to the rocket fire.
A tentative truce was reached on Monday with Palestinian officials saying Israel had agreed to ease its crippling decade-long blockade of the impoverished enclave in exchange for calm. Israel did not publicly confirm the deal.
A Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he considered the reopening of the fishing area “the first step the (Israeli) occupation must take as part of the implementation of the understandings.”
An Egyptian security delegation arrived in Gaza late on Thursday to monitor implementation of the Cairo-brokered truce, he said.
COGAT’s statement late on Thursday did not mention any reopening of the border crossings between Gaza and Israel.
Israel says its blockade is necessary to isolate Gaza’s rulers Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008.
But critics say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s two million residents. — AFP