Israel expands Gaza fishing zone by 50 per cent


Israel announced yesterday that the permitted fishing zone for Gaza fishermen will be significantly increased for the coming two months.

The decision to increase the fishing zone from six to nine nautical miles was announced by COGAT (the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), the Israeli body responsible for Israeli activities involving movement and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

A statement by COGAT announced that the decision “to approve the expansion of the fishing zone along the Gaza Strip” was taken in order “to facilitate increased activity in Gaza Strip’s fishing sector, which is an [important] source of income”. A similar expansion of the fishing zone between April and June led to a 15 per cent increase in the total output of fish in comparison to the same period during the previous year. The two month-long expansion will begin on November 1.

The statement continued: “We emphasise that the expansion of the [fishing zone] is conditioned on the fishermen respecting the agreement [of nine nautical miles] and not exploiting it to smuggle or penetrate Israel’s territory.” The expansion is designed to help local fishermen, while maintaining Israel’s legal naval blockade to ensure that Hamas does not smuggle missiles and other arms into the Gaza Strip.

In a separate development in Palestinian affairs, a report in Haaretz claims that Israel’s security cabinet approved several Palestinian construction projects in Area C of the West Bank in a secret vote, so as to avoid public political fallout. The decision was reportedly taken towards the beginning of October and is based on Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s “carrot and stick” approach to rewarding relative quiet.

As a result, the security cabinet apparently approved a COGAT-constructed plan, which will include expansion in Kalkilya and several Palestinian villages, an industrial area near Nablus, a hospital in Beit Sahour and an economic corridor between Jericho and Jordan.

According to the report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Likud colleague Yuval Steinitz, Shas leader Arye Dery and Kulanu Ministers Moshe Kahlon and Yoav Galant voted in favour of the plan, but it was opposed by Jewish Home ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked.