JERUSALEM, Feb 25 (Reuters) - A Palestinian from the Gaza Strip died on Sunday after the Israeli navy fired on the boat he and two others were sailing in, a military spokeswoman said.
The navy opened fire after the boat ignored warnings and strayed from a permitted fishing area in the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel, the spokeswoman said. One of the men in the boat was seriously wounded and later died.
But the Gaza fishermen’s union said the boat was targeted as it was making its way back to Gaza, and Nizar Ayyash, the secretary of the Gaza fishermen’s syndicate, said in a statement that the men did not violate the maritime limit.
Israel maintains a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is dominated by Hamas Islamists. It patrols the waters to stop arms from being smuggled into the enclave and to stop militants trying to attack or infiltrate its territory from the sea.
“Israeli forces targeted a Palestinian fishing boat which was on the way back to Gaza shore, which led to the death of one fisherman and wounding two others,” the fishermen’s union said.
The military spokeswoman said a Palestinian vessel with three suspects aboard was shot at after it had deviated from the designated fishing zone in the northern Gaza Strip.
“Naval forces called on the suspects to stop and when they did not comply, warning shots were fired into the air. Upon their continued advancement, shots were fired towards the vessel. Subsequently, one of the suspects was severely injured and he later succumbed to his wounds. The other two suspects were handed to security forces for interrogation,” she said.
Fishing is one of the biggest industries in the Gaza Strip, a coastal enclave of almost 2 million inhabitants.
Over the past two years, Israel has detained dozens of Gaza fishermen who have strayed beyond the border, a senior naval commander said.
Boats are not allowed to stray beyond a fixed limit to the north towards Israeli waters, and Egypt keeps similar limitations to the south-west. Israel restricts fishing to a seasonally adjusted zone of between six and nine nautical miles. (Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Larry King)