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Israeli navy fires shells at Palestinian fishing boats off Gaza

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Palestinian fishermen check their nets on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea near the border between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, November 6, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli navy ships have fired shells at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of the besieged Gaza Strip, completely destroying one of them.

Palestinian sources said the boat exploded after being hit by Israeli shells late on Tuesday. A fire then broke out that fully consumed the boat.

There were no immediate reports on possible casualties among the Palestinian fishermen.

Around 4,000 fishermen work in Gaza, with more than half of them living below the poverty line.

Israel had imposed limits of three nautical miles for fishing in waters off the Gaza shore until August 2014. Under a ceasefire agreement that ended a deadly 50-day Israeli war on Gaza back then, Tel Aviv agreed to immediately expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast and to allow fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles off the shore. The agreement also stipulated that Israel should expand the area gradually up to 12 miles.

Palestinian fishermen, however, say the Israeli navy opens fire on them before they reach the agreed limit. Over the past two years, Israeli forces have carried out about 150 attacks on Palestinian boats, arresting nearly two dozen fishermen and impounding nine boats.

The Gaza Strip has been under Israel’s blockade since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

Israel started its latest war on the Gaza Strip in early July last year. The offensive ended on August 26, 2014, with a truce that took effect after indirect negotiations in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children, were killed in Israel’s 50-day onslaught. Over 11,100 others – including 3,374 children, 2,088 women and 410 elderly people – were also injured.

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