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Israel to ease restrictions on trade, fisheries in Gaza as truce obligation

Israel to ease restrictions on trade, fisheries in Gaza as truce obligation

Jerusalem: Israel on Thursday announced that it will expand the allowed fishing zone off the Gaza Strip and will allow the entry of some raw materials for industries which were tightened during 11 days of fighting with the Palestinian enclave's Hamas rulers last month.

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."

The permitted range for fishing will be expanded from 6 nautical miles, or some 11 km, to 9 nautical miles, or some 16.7 km, the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Israel's military liaison to the Palestinians, said in a statement.

In addition, several raw materials for "essential civilian factories" could be imported from Israel to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, a passageway for goods, the Xinhua news agency reported.

With an Egyptian-mediated truce largely holding, Israel on Monday allowed a limited resumption of commercial exports from Gaza. But Hamas demanded a wider easing of curbs and held out the possibility of resuming hostilities.

Egypt and the United Nations stepped up mediation last week after incendiary balloons launched from Gaza drew retaliatory Israeli airstrikes on Hamas sites, challenging the fragile ceasefire.

At least 250 Palestinians and 13 in Israel were killed in the May fighting, which saw Gaza militants fire rockets towards Israeli cities and Israel carry out airstrikes across the coastal enclave.

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.

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