Israeli officials have loosened restrictions on fishermen off the blockaded Gaza Strip by allowing them to travel up to 15 nautical miles off the southern portion of the enclave into the Mediterranean Sea.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a unit in Israel’s ministry of military affairs that oversees civil matters in the Palestinian territories, announced on Sunday that the fishing zone was being “expanded to 15 nautical miles,” back up from 10.
It restores the fishing zone to the limits set in April ahead of Israel’s general election.
The distance is the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian resistance movements in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
On May 23, Gaza’s fishing zone was reduced to 10 nautical miles after at least 11 incendiary balloons were purportedly launched from the coastal sliver at occupied territories.
The decision came a day after COGAT increased the permitted fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip to 15 nautical after reports that a six-month ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel had been cut.
Under the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, Israel is obligated to permit fishing up to 20 nautical miles off the coast of the Gaza Strip, but this has never been implemented. The Oslo Accords were signed between the Israeli regime and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the early-mid 1990s to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel maintains a heavy naval presence off the coast of the impoverished Palestinian enclave, severely affecting the livelihoods of some 4,000 fishermen and at least 1,500 more people involved in the fishing industry.
Over the past few years, Israeli forces have carried out more than a hundred attacks on Palestinian boats, arresting dozens of fishermen and confiscating several boats.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.