Israel reduces Gaza’s fishing zone by half over incendiary balloon fires

Israel has reduced the fishing zone of Gaza by half, defence 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 occupied Palestinian territories (COGAT) said on Sunday.

“The decision was made following the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, which constitutes a violation of Israeli sovereignty,” it said in a statement.

Earlier on 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”.

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”.

The latest launch of incendiary balloons came two months after an 11-day Israeli assault on Gaza, raising the prospect of renewed Israeli attacks on the Hamas-run territory.

Prior to the May conflict, the Gaza fishing zone was 15 nautical miles.

The May offensive killed at least 260 Palestinians, including 66 children, and caused widespread damage to infrastructure and residential areas. On the Israeli side, 13 people, including two children, were killed by rockets fired from Palestinian armed groups in the coastal enclave.