Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Israeli forces open fire at Gaza fishermen, detain 5

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained five Gaza fishermen off the coast of Gaza City early Wednesday, an employee of a human rights group told Ma'an.

The employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Ma'an that Israeli naval forces opened fire "heavily" on a group of Palestinian fishermen.

Israeli forces "forced a boat of five fisherman from the Bakr family to stop, detained them, and dragged the boat to an unknown location."

No injuries were reported.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that there were two "Palestinian vessels" carrying seven people near the northern Gaza Strip that "deviated from the designated fishing zone."

Israeli forces called on them to stop and fired warning shots into the air, and when the boats did not stop, in the "vicinity of the vessels."

The forces then took the Palestinians in for questioning, the spokeswoman said.

She said the Palestinians were 3,600 yards (1.8 nautical miles) from the fishing zone.

The Aug. 26 ceasefire agreement reached with Palestinian militant groups stipulated that Israel would immediately expand the fishing zone off Gaza's coast, allowing fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore, and would continue to expand the area gradually.

Since then, there have been widespread reports that Israeli forces have at times opened fire at fishermen within those new limits.

Prior to the recent agreement, Israeli forces maintained a limit of three nautical miles on all Gaza fishermen, opening fire at fishermen who strayed further, despite earlier agreements which had settled on a 20-mile limit.

The restrictions crippled Gaza's fishing industry and impoverished local fishermen.

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