A group of Super Dvora Mk III-class patrol boats defend the coast of Israel along the border with the Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The IDF decided on Sunday to postpone a temporary expansion of the fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip from six to nine nautical miles.
On October 26, the Coordinator for Government Affairs in the Territories, a branch of the Defense Ministry, announced that it concluded an agreement with the PA to expand the fishing zone on November 1.
COGAT initially did not comment on the reason why the agreement was not implemented on November 1, but said on Sunday that it delayed its implementation because the PA did not fulfill its commitments.
“It has unfortunately become clear that the Palestinian side did not implement what was agreed to in order to allow the decision to go into effect,” Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordecai, head of COGAT, posted on Twitter.
Mordecai specified that Palestinian side was supposed “to place a boat to monitor” and ensure Palestinian fishermen do not exceed the permitted fishing boundaries.
However, PA Civil Affairs Ministry spokesman Muhammad Maqadma told The Jerusalem Post
that the PA has fulfilled all of its commitments to the agreement.
“The agreement does not talk about a monitoring boat; Israel only set that condition in the past few days,” said Maqadma, who works for the PA ministry responsible for all civil coordination with Israel.
COGAT refuted Maqadma’s statement in an email to the Post
. “As part of an agreement with the official Palestinian bodies, it was agreed that they would have a boat...to ensure that there are no infractions in the enlarged fishing zone, and to maintain order between the fishermen,” the statement read.
Maqadma added that the PA Civil Affairs Ministry cannot place a monitoring boat along the coast of the Gaza Strip. “It is not the job of the Civil Affairs Ministry to place a boat off Gaza’s coast. Other institutions in the PA are responsible for that, but because the PA is not fully operating in Gaza, they are unable to monitor the waters,” he said, adding that “Israel has the capabilities to monitor Gaza’s waters on its own.”
Since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, the PA security forces including its Naval Police have not operated in the small coastal enclave.
Maqadma concluded that the current dispute can easily be overcome: “We can easily solve this problem if Israel expands the fishing zone as it has in the past without a monitoring boat.”
Israel did not condition a similar expansion of the fishing zone in April on the PA placing a monitoring boat off the coast of Gaza.
A member of the Gaza-based Palestinian fishermen’s union told the Post that Israel needs to leave Gaza’s waters and abide by all agreements.
The Oslo Accords state that the fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip should extend to 20 nautical miles.
“We want to be able to move freely, fish, and feed our kids. Israel needs to open the seas and that’s it,” the member of the fishermen’s union added.
There are approximately 4,000 fishermen in Gaza today, who rely on the fish they catch to make ends meet.