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Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Several thousand Gazans depend on fishing for their livelihoods but often changing Israeli restrictions have led to prolonged layoffs that mean many live below the poverty line
Several thousand Gazans depend on fishing for their livelihoods but often changing Israeli restrictions have led to prolonged layoffs that mean many live below the poverty line AFP/File
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Jerusalem (AFP)

Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.

The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.

"A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice," said COGAT, the defence ministry unit that oversees such regulations.

"The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel," it added.

Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.

Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.

The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.

But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.

Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 ceasefire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.

The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.

Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month's exchanges across the border.

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