Gaza sees eased restrictions on fishing, farming

Hamas officials, PM confirm Israel doubles fishing limit for Gazan fisherman on coast following Egyptian brokered truce.

Gaza fishing 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Gaza fishing 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
GAZA - Israel eased restrictions on Gaza fishermen on Saturday, further implementing a three-day-old truce brokered by Egypt after a week of fierce fighting, Palestinian officials said.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children headed back to school for the first time in 10 days, in another indication normal life was returning after cross-border violence.
A statement from the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Egypt had notified them that "Israel has allowed Palestinian fishermen to fish in Gaza's waters at a distance of six miles (6.9 km), up from three miles (4.8 km)."
A text of the truce deal agreed on Wednesday calls on Israel to ease curbs on the coastal Gaza territory, which it has largely blockaded since Hamas, which rejects the Jewish state's right to exist, took power there in 2007.
The sides had disagreed on exactly when and how the restrictions would actually be lifted.
Israel had formally barred Gaza fishermen from heading more than three miles out into the Mediterranean Sea for about three years, its gunboats often enforcing the rule. It said its blockade was a measure to prevent weapons smuggling.
Murad Al-Issi, a member of a local fishermens' group, told Reuters his colleagues had already ventured out to the six-mile limit on Saturday, undisturbed by Israel.
"The Israeli army naval boat which used to fire and torch Palestinian boats that sailed beyond a three-mile distance watched without doing anything to prevent them," Issi said.
Palestinians say the Israeli restrictions had hampered the amount and variety of fish they could catch.
"This is a good step," Issi said, adding it would be best to be permitted double the distance.
In another apparent Israeli step to ease restrictions, Palestinian farmers tended land along the testy frontier with the Jewish state without incident, a day after the IDF killed a Palestinian man at a border fence.
Palestinians denounced the shooting as a violation of the ceasefire and Egypt intervened to restore calm.
On Saturday, a Reuters photographer saw farmers in the Khan Younis area working close to the Israeli frontier fence.
Hamas security officials were on patrol and Israeli soldiers looked on without interfering, but for a brief verbal exchange between one soldier and a Hamas guard, witnesses said.
Israel barred Palestinians from coming within 300 meters of the border since 2009, citing security concerns.