JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel announced a further easing of its blockade on Gaza on Thursday, saying it would expand the coastal territory’s fishing zone and allow the import of raw materials for “essential civilian factories.”
COGAT, the Israeli military body that oversees civilian affairs in Gaza, said the measures would take effect on Friday and are “conditional upon the preservation of security stability.” It said the fishing zone would be expanded from 6 nautical miles to 9 nautical miles.
Israel and Egypt imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in the strip in 2007. Israel says the restrictions are needed to prevent Hamas from importing military resources, while critics of the blockade view it as collective punishment of the territory’s 2 million Palestinian residents.
Hamas has demanded significant easing of the blockade in negotiations with Egyptian and international mediators aimed at solidifying the informal cease-fire that ended last month’s 11-day Gaza war. Israel has said it won’t tolerate even relatively minor attacks from Gaza, including the launch of incendiary balloons, which triggered Israeli airstrikes last week.