Israel says it re-opened the fishing zone off the besieged Gaza Strip, after closing it entirely earlier this week in response to rocket fire towards its territory from the enclave governed by Hamas.
A statement on Thursday from COGAT, the Israeli military body that controls civilian affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, announced the decision and said the resumption of “routine” policy towards Gaza “is subject to the continuation of peace and… security stability”.
Israeli authorities closed the fishing zones in the wake of rocket attacks that originated from Gaza and reportedly caused light damage in communities near the border inside Israel.
The rocket attacks were believed to be a show of support by armed groups in Gaza for Palestinians in Jerusalem, who had been prevented by the Israeli police from gathering in an Old City plaza following evening prayers during Ramadan. Tensions flared after far-right Israelis marched to the areas in occupied East Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs.”
Israel responded to the rocket fire with air raids on Hamas targets inside the Gaza enclave.
Under the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, Israel is obligated to permit fishing up to 20 nautical miles, but this has never been implemented and over the years Israel has set varying limits to the fishing zone, which has been reduced to as low as three nautical miles.
In 2007, following Hamas’s victory in elections that gave it control of the besieged territory, Israel imposed the strict blockade, making the movement of Palestinians in Gaza extremely difficult. The UN has dubbed it an “open-air prison”.
Israel’s ever-changing limit on how far fishermen are allowed to sail out to fish has placed many boats – and lives – at risk.
Israel maintains a heavy naval presence, restricting any traffic in and out of the enclave as well as the distance Gaza’s fishermen can travel to fish, severely affecting the livelihoods of some 4,000 fishermen and at least 1,500 more people involved in the fishing industry.
Limited access to raw materials has left most boats lacking the necessary renovations needed to function at full potential.
The profession has also been deemed dangerous by rights organisations due to Israel’s harassment of fishermen at sea.
Furthermore, overfishing the small area over the years has depleted fish breeding grounds.