Israel says closes Gaza fishing zone due to fire balloons

Colleagues of Palestinian paramedic Mohamed Al-Judaily, who died of wounds he sustained during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, carry his son during his funeral in the central Gaza Strip, in this June 11, 2019 file photo. — Reuters

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government said late Wednesday that the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza had been closed, in retaliation for the launch of incendiary balloons from the Palestinian enclave.

"Due to the continuous launching of incendiary balloons and kites from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, it has been decided tonight (Wednesday) not to allow access to Gaza's maritime space until further notice," a spokesperson for COGAT, a unit of Israel's defense ministry, said in a statement.

The move came after COGAT said on Tuesday it had reduced the extent of the fishing zone to six nautical miles offshore from 10 nautical miles, having down-scaled it from 15 nautical miles a week ago.

A spokesman for the Israeli fire service said incendiary balloons from Gaza caused seven fires just on Tuesday.

In the past year, Palestinians have succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland in southern Israel.

Israel had only restored the fishing limit to 15 miles on June 4, after a previous reduction in response to fire balloons.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, run by Islamist movement Hamas, have fought three wars since 2008. — AFP