Palestinian fisherman fatally shot by Israeli gunboat

 Israeli naval forces shot a Palestinian fisherman dead Saturday off the coast of Gaza. Three fishermen strayed outside the fishing zone designated by Israel, reported Israeli military officials.

 Israeli naval forces shot a Palestinian fisherman dead Saturday off the coast of Gaza, a Palestinian health official said.

Tawfiq Abu Riala, 32, was killed and two other Gaza fishermen were arrested, said Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health ministry spokesman.

The Israeli news outlet Haaretz reported that "Palestinian medical officials reported that a fisherman was seriously wounded when the boat went up in flames as result of the gunfire. The man, a resident of the Al-Shati refugee camp, was rushed to the hospital in Rafah.

On November 10, the navy opened fire on a Palestinian boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip, reportedly destroying it. The boat was on its way back to Gaza from Egypt, where it had picked up supplies."

The Israeli military said Saturday that its forces identified a number of vessels that had "deviated from the designated fishing zone" and ordered them to halt their progress. When the vessels did not comply, the forces opened fire at their engines to stop them, the military said.

It was not clear how the fisherman ended up in the line of fire.

Israel maintains a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip to prevent the smuggling of weapons to the coastal strip's Islamic Hamas leaders and other militant groups that operate in the territory.

Following last summer's 50-day war in Gaza, Israel agreed to double the permitted fishing zone for Gazans to six nautical miles. It recently also loosened restrictions to allow Gaza fishermen to export their catch to the West Bank for the first time since 2007.

But as The Christian Science Monitor reported last September, the gains have been meager. 

Israel says its maritime blockade is necessary to stop arms smuggling to Hamas, which took control of Gaza seven years ago. Since then, Gaza's waters have become severely overfished.

Fishermen – some of whom used to spend as much as a week at sea – often end up catching immature fish closer to shore that haven't had a chance to reproduce and replenish the sea's stocks. They also fetch less at the market than larger fish.

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