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Monday, November 26, 2012
Under the radar, Israel eases restrictions on Gaza

Under the radar, Israel eases restrictions on Gaza

With little fanfare, Palestinian fishermen and farmers allowed closer to the
border

By Elhanan Miller The Times of Israel November 26, 2012, 6:12 pm
http://www.timesofisrael.com/under-the-radar-israel-eases-restrictions-on-gaza/

With negotiations on the details of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas
commencing in Cairo Monday, Israel has already begun to ease restrictions of
movement for fishermen and farmers in the Gaza Strip.

Under the ceasefire agreement reached November 21, Israel pledged to
negotiate over stopping targeted killings and allowing Gaza residents free
movement near border areas. Meanwhile, Hamas and the other factions
committed to negotiating over stopping “all hostilities” from the Gaza Strip
toward Israel.

Nizar Ayyash, the head of Gaza’s fisherman’s union, told The Times of Israel
that since Saturday, the Israeli navy has allowed Palestinian fishermen to
fish up to six nautical miles from the coast, doubling the previously
allowed fishing zone.

“The Israeli army has moved the buoys to mark the new boundary,” Ayyash
said, “but the fishermen are still harassed and shots are fired now and
then.”

“It is not entirely clear to us what the new arrangements are,” said Sari
Bashi, director of Gisha, an Israeli organization that deals with
Palestinian freedom of movement, noting that her organization obtains all
information about measures on the ground from Gaza locals, not the Israeli
government. Gisha reported that Gaza Strip farmers were also allowed this
week to come within 100 meters (110 yards) of the border with Israel and
tend to their farms.

Before the recent escalation, the official “no-go” area on the Gaza side of
the border was 300 meters, but at times stretched as far as 1,500 meters
into the Strip, comprising 35 percent of Gaza’s arable land, Gisha reported.

A spokesman for the IDF declined The Times of Israel’s request to comment on
any new Israeli government regulations concerning Gaza. The Israeli
government was also tight-lipped about specific arrangements.

“We have no problem with improving the living conditions for the people in
Gaza, because they are not our enemy,” an Israeli government official told
The Times of Israel. “Easing restrictions also helps reinforce the quiet in
the south.”

For the first time, Hamas has deployed policemen to the border area this
week, in an attempt to prevent Palestinian demonstrators from reaching the
border fence where one demonstrator was shot dead on Friday.

In the ceasefire agreement, Israel, somewhat vaguely, committed to
negotiations on “opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of
people and transfer of goods.” Although the matter is to be discussed
further in Cairo, on Monday a group of merchants was already allowed to
cross into Israel through the Erez border crossing, the Palestinian Ma’an
news agency reported. According to “special sources” cited by Ma’an, Israel
will allow 120 merchants to enter Israel from Gaza on a daily basis.

The Egyptian General Intelligence Service is brokering the talks between
Israeli and Hamas delegations in Cairo.

Meanwhile, conciliatory overtures between Hamas and Fatah continued Monday.
Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal called Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas to congratulate him on the bid to win UN nonmember state
recognition later this week. Mashaal stressed the importance of maintaining
power in Palestinian hands, primarily armed resistance against Israel.

Also on Monday, Egyptian sources told Ma’an that the Rafah border crossing
with Gaza would likely not be open without Palestinian Authority
representation at the crossing, which would necessitate reconciliation
between Fatah and Hamas.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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