Israeli warship opens fire at Gaza fishermen, injuring 4
Published Wednesday 26/03/2014 (updated) 27/03/2014 16:46
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli warships early Wednesday fired at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, injuring four fishermen, witnesses and medics said.
Witnesses told Ma'an the four fishermen were brought to nearby Kamal Udwan Hospital, where medics said they sustained moderate injuries.
Additionally, witnesses said the Israeli navy shelled fishing boats that were docked in the harbor, causing a fire to break out before emergency services arrived to control the fire.
One of the shells it electricity lines, causes a power outage in the area, locals told Ma'an.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said that overnight, "navy soldiers identified Palestinian vessels drifting into Egyptian territorial waters in a suspected smuggling attempt."
When the boats returned to Gaza's territorial waters, soldiers in an Israel navy ship called on them stop, the spokeswoman said. After they did not stop, the Israeli ship fired shots in boats' vicinity, and afterwards at the boats themselves.
"Hits were confirmed," she said, adding that "secondary explosions were heard."
Palestinian militants on the shore responded by firing at the Israeli ship, damaging it, she said.
The navy responded by "firing towards the terrorists," the spokeswoman added.
In the Oslo Accords, Israel agreed to a 20-nautical-mile fishing zone off Gaza's coast but it imposed a 3-mile limit for several years, opening fire at fishermen who strayed further.
Israel has controlled Gaza waters since its occupation of the area in 1967, and has kept several warships stationed off the coast since 2008.
There are some 4,000 fishermen in Gaza. According to a 2011 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, 90 percent are poor, a 40 percent increase from 2008 resulting from Israeli limits on the fishing industry.