Israel lifts Gaza fishing ban as calm returnstext_fields
Gaza City: Israel lifted a ban on Friday on Palestinian fishing boats putting to sea off Gaza, an Israeli military body said, ending a measure imposed during a deadly flare-up of violence earlier this month.
The measure is seen as a first step in implementing a fragile truce meant to avert a new conflict between the army and Palestinian militants.
"Friday, the Gaza Strip fishing zone is expected to reopen at a range of up to 12 nautical miles," the Israeli military body responsible for the Palestinian territories, COGAT, said.
"Application of the measure is conditioned on the Gaza Strip fishermen respecting the agreements."
The Israeli navy often fires on Gazan boats it says have exceed the limits it enforces.
The fishing union in Gaza confirmed the lifting of the ban.
Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israel on Saturday and Sunday, with the army striking dozens of targets in Gaza in response.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in the two-day flare-up.
COGAT closed the fishing zone and the border crossings for both people and goods between Israel and Gaza in response to the rocket fire.
A tentative truce was reached on Monday with Palestinian officials saying Israel had agreed to ease its crippling decade-long blockade of the impoverished enclave in exchange for calm.
Israel did not publicly confirm the deal.
COGAT's statement late on Thursday did not mention any reopening of the border crossings.
Israel says its blockade is necessary to isolate Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008.
But critics say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza's two million residents.