Saturday, March 23, 2013

Israel opens fire at Gaza fishermen to impose new limit

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces opened fire at fishermen off Gaza's coast on Saturday, forcing them to comply with a newly imposed reduced fishing zone following a rocket attack on southern Israel.

Israel's army announced Thursday that the fishing zone for Palestinians in Gaza would be reduced from six to three miles following a rocket attack.

Fishermen in Gaza told Ma'an that Israel's navy opened fire at them on Saturday to prevent them from going out further than 3 miles.

Mahfouth Kabariti, head of a federation for fishermen and water sports, confirmed that the Israeli navy had set up new signs defining the permitted fishing zone.

The zone had been extended to 11 km as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended an eight-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in November, in which 166 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.

The newly imposed Israeli restriction does not necessarily mean that Israel has abandoned the ceasefire agreement, Gaza-based political analyst Wisam Afifa told Ma'an.

Rather, Israel is trying to use the terms of the agreement which affect humanitarian issues as a means to exert pressure on Hamas and other Palestinian resistance factions to adhere to the ceasefire deal, he said.

"When missiles are fired by an unidentified source in Gaza, that leaves question marks about the launchers and their goals," he added.

Hamas complained to Egypt on Friday after Israel suspended part of a Cairo-brokered truce agreement. An Egyptian official confirmed that the Hamas complaint had been received, saying Israel had complained separately about the rocket attack.

The official said Cairo would contact both sides to "restore their commitment to the truce".

Magles Shoura al-Mujahedeen, a hardline Islamist Salafi faction with a small presence in Gaza and the neighboring Egyptian Sinai, claimed responsibility for the salvo on Sderot.

In an online statement, the group said it had struck during Obama's visit to show up Israeli air defenses - a likely reference to Israel's US-backed Iron Dome rocket shield.

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