Thursday, December 1, 2011

Israel frees Gaza fishermen but keeps boats

Fishermen pictured off Gaza's coast. (MaanImages/file)

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel has freed 10 fishermen detained off the Gaza coast but has not released their boats, a Palestinian official said Wednesday.

Mahfouz al-Kabarety, head of the Palestinian society for fishing and marine sports, said eight of the men had been detained on Tuesday and were released Wednesday. Two fishermen detained on Monday were freed Tuesday, he added.

On both occasions, Israel confiscated the fishermen's boats and has not returned them, the official said.

On Tuesday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said a boat "deviated from a designated fishing area" off the Gaza coast, and was instructed to reverse course by naval forces in the area. The boat failed to comply with the instructions and the crew was taken into custody, she said.

Palestine's UN observer said in October that by preventing fishermen from reaching 80 percent of available fishing waters, Israel exacerbated poverty in the Gaza Strip, in a report to the General Assembly.

Noting that most Gaza residents were dependent on food aid, the International Red Cross said in July that Gaza's fishing industry had almost disappeared due to Israeli restrictions.