Palestinian Israeli conflict

Israel reduces by half Gaza fishing zone after incendiary balloon fires

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

“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 toward Israel, which constitutes a violation of Israeli sovereignty,” it said in a statement.

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.”

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

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

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.

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 Gaza’s Hamas Islamist rulers. No casualties have been reported.

The previous time balloons from Gaza caused a fire in Israel was July 2.

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