Israel expands Gaza fishing zone as part of ceasefire agreement

Israel's widening of Gaza fishing area under an Egyptian-brokered deal comes a day after two border crossings reopen.

    The widest range Israel has allowed in the past 10 years is 22km [File: Mohammed Salem/Reuters]
    The widest range Israel has allowed in the past 10 years is 22km [File: Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

    Israel has expanded the permitted fishing zone in the besieged Gaza Strip as part of a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, the group that governs the enclave.

    The Egyptian-brokered deal includes expanding the fishing limit along the Mediterranean coast from approximately 11 kilometres to 28km for the first time in years, with the purpose of boosting Gaza's economy that is heavily reliant on fishing.

    Expansions occasionally occur and usually last for only three months at a time.

    Since Israel imposed a land, aerial and naval blockade on Gaza in 2007 following Hamas's election victory, Gaza's fishing sector has been hit and its exports have dwindled.

    The widest range Israel has allowed in the past 10 years is 22km and, at times, the limit was reduced to even 1.85km, Nizar Ayash, the head of Gaza's fishermen union, previously told Al Jazeera.

    Under the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, Israel is obligated to permit fishing up to 37km, but it has never been implemented. Overfishing in a small area over the years has decreased the fish population and depleted fish breeding grounds.

    Al Jazeera's Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Gaza, said that despite the ease on restrictions, Monday's weather forecast forced many fishermen to quickly sail back to shore.

    "It's cloudy and it's been raining heavily here in Gaza. The people who assembled here say they need to go back into the water," Jamjoom said.

    "This is one of the few viable industries here, this is one of the few ways which people in Gaza are able to make money," he said.

    'More equipment' needed

    There are approximately 4,000 registered fishermen in the Gaza Strip, operating some 1,000 boats. Limited access to raw materials has left most boats lacking the necessary renovations needed to function at full potential.

    The profession has been deemed dangerous by rights organisations due to Israel's harassment of fishermen at sea.

    Those who attempted to sail out into the water on Monday morning say they are hopeful that this means they will be able to continue to do so, Jamjoom said, but at the same time, they say they still need "more equipment" for their boats.

    On Sunday, Israeli authorities also reopened two border crossings a day after tens of thousands of Palestinians demonstrated along the fortified fence with Israel to mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return protests.

    Four Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire, and at least 207 others were wounded on Saturday during the protests, Gaza's health ministry said.

    The Karam Abu Salem commercial crossing and the Erez crossing with Gaza were reopened six days after they were shut down amid an exchange of heavy fire between Israel and Hamas.

    Israel regularly seals off the two crossings, which facilitate the movement of Palestinians with hard-to-obtain Israeli permits, as well as goods and services to Gaza's nearly two million residents.

    Since March 30, 2018, Palestinians in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip have been demanding the right to return to lands from which their families were violently expelled during the founding of Israel in 1948. Protesters in the weekly rallies are also calling for an end to the blockade.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News