Gaza fishermen denied entry to sea as incendiary balloons continue

The fishing zone in Gaza was reduced to six nautical miles on Tuesday due to the fires.

The sun rises as fishermen are seen at the seaport of Gaza City, April 2, 2019 (photo credit: SUHAIB SALEM/REUTERS)
The sun rises as fishermen are seen at the seaport of Gaza City, April 2, 2019
(photo credit: SUHAIB SALEM/REUTERS)
Gaza fishermen were denied access to the sea on Wednesday evening, COGAT announced, following the constant barrage of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza that have continued to set the South ablaze.
There were eight fires in the south of Israel on Wednesday that were sparked from incendiary devices flown over the border from Gaza, with seven fires reported on Tuesday.
The fishing zone off of Gaza was reduced to six nautical miles on Tuesday due to the fires.
The size of the fishing zone in the Strip has fluctuated in recent weeks, since the reported treaty between the IDF and Hamas that went into effect following the violence that saw four Israelis killed by over 700 rockets fired from Gaza. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Israeli strikes in response to the rockets killed 16 Palestinians.
A 15-nautical mile fishing zone is believed to be a condition of the informal truce. Both Israel and Hamas have dismissed reports of such a treaty.
According to the terms of the alleged treaty, the Gaza border protests also must remain peaceful.
However, the onslaught of incendiary balloons that have persisted over the past weeks have threatened to break this reported truce.
Last week, despite the fires, Israel had expanded the Gaza fishing zone to 15 miles.
The week prior, in response to the balloons, Israel restricted the Gaza fishing zone to 10 nautical miles, one day after extending it to 15 nautical miles.
The decision to extend the fishing zone last week was "part of the civilian policy aimed at preventing a humanitarian deterioration in the Gaza Strip, and reflects the policy of distinguishing between terror and the uninvolved populace," an Israeli official said according to Reuters.
Palestinians saw the extension as an Israeli concession to a year of protests at the border, combined with several surges of cross-border fighting which have prompted mediation by Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar on ways to help Gaza's economy.
"Thanks to God and then to the 'March of Return,' which opened up the sea for us," 69-year-old fisherman Ahmed al-Amoudi said, referring to the weekly demonstrations at the frontier, which demand a lifting of the blockade.
April to June are peak Gaza fishing season. The sector accounts for less than 5% of the enclave's GDP and supports some 50,000 people, a fraction of the population of two million.
Since 2000, Israel has limited Palestinian fishing waters to 6-9 miles (9-15 km.) from the Gaza coast.
Reuters and Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.

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