Israel lifts Gaza fishing ban as fragile truce holds

Israel lifts Gaza fishing ban as fragile truce holds
Israeli restrictions on Gaza's fishing zone have crippled the industry in the besieged coastal territory, with over 90 percent of fishermen dependent on aid for survival.
2 min read
Israel's blockade has devastated Gaza's economy. [Getty]

Israel lifted a ban on Palestinian fishing boats off Gaza's coast on Friday, ending a measure imposed during a deadly flare-up of violence earlier this month.

The measure is seen as a first step in implementing a fragile truce meant to avert a new conflict between the Israeli army and Palestinian militants.

"Friday, the Gaza Strip fishing zone is expected to reopen at a range of up to 12 nautical miles," the Israeli military body responsible for the Palestinian territories, COGAT, said.

"Application of the measure is conditioned on the Gaza Strip fishermen respecting the agreements."

The fishing union in Gaza confirmed the lifting of the ban.

Read more: Israel's expansion of Gaza's fishing zone means nothing

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."

COGAT closed the fishing zone and the border crossings for both people and goods between Israel and Gaza during the escalation.

The measures were widely viewed as an act of collective punishment following the recent uptick in violence, which killed 25 Palestinians and four Israelis over two days.

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.

COGAT's statement late on Thursday did not mention any reopening of the border crossings.

Israel restricts the distance of Gaza's fishing zone as part of a decade-long blockade on the territory, claiming it is a preventative security measure.

The policy has crippled the fishing industry in coastal Gaza, with over 90 percent of fishermen dependent on aid for survival, according to rights groups.

The Israeli navy often fires on Palestinian boats it says have exceeded the arbitrary limits it enforces, leading to frequent injuries and fatalities.

Israel's blockade has devastated Gaza's economy, leading to one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.

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