Gaza sea restrictions loosened as Egypt-led talks between Israel and Hamas progress

(EBC; April 1, 2019) - Gaza’s sea restrictions imposed by Israel were loosened to the largest distance in years on Monday as Egyptian-led talks between the enclave’s rulers Hamas and Israel progressed.

Hamas said that the Egyptian-led talks involved relaxing Israel’s decade-long siege in return for calm on Israel’s border.

Israel has not commented on the negotiations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is widely seen as wanting to avoid a severe escalation in the Gaza Strip ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.

"The fishing zone in the Gaza Strip has been expanded to a maximum of 15 nautical miles (28 kilometres)," said Cogat, the Israeli defence ministry unit that oversees such regulations.

It did not say in which areas the zone would extend to 15 nautical miles. Israel has in the past extended the distance in certain areas but not others.

The distance is the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade, said Miriam Marmur, spokeswoman for Gisha, an NGO that monitors restrictions on Gaza.

She however noted that it remains short of the 20 nautical miles agreed to under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.