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Israel reduces Gaza fishing zone by half after incendiary balloons cause fires

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Israel on Sunday reduced by half the fishing zone off Gaza, defence officials said, after incendiary balloons launched from the Palestinian enclave caused fires in the Jewish state.

“It has been decided to reduce the fishing zone in the Gaza Strip from 12 nautical miles to six nautical miles,” the Israeli military branch responsible for civil affairs in the Palestinian territories (COGAT) said.

“The decision was made following the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, which constitutes a violation of Israeli sovereignty,” it said in a statement.

Gaza’s ruling Islamist group Hamas was “responsible for all activities within the Gaza Strip and all actions originating in the Gaza Strip directed towards the state of Israel”, COGAT said.

“It will therefore bear the consequences for the violence committed against the citizens of the state of Israel.”

Earlier Sunday, Israeli firefighters said they extinguished brush blazes “in three points in a small area in the Eshkol region”, noting that investigations had “determined the cause as being incendiary balloons”.

The balloons are basic devices intended to set fire to farmland surrounding the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian enclave.

On July 12, Israel announced it was re-expanding the fishing zone off Gaza and allowing additional imports into the Palestinian territory in the light of the “recent security calm”.

The fishing zone and imports are used by Israel to punish or reward Gaza for the security situation.

An 11-day conflict in May saw Israel launch hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, and Hamas fire thousands of rockets at Israel.

Prior to the May conflict, the Gaza fishing zone was 15 nautical miles, but Israel reduced it during the warfare.

There has been sporadic unrest since a ceasefire ended the conflict, with incendiary balloons launched from Gaza and Israeli reprisal air strikes targeting facilities belonging to Hamas. No casualties have been reported.

The last time balloons from Gaza caused a fire in Israel was early this month.

(AFP)

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