GAZA — Israel on Sunday expanded the Palestinian fishing zone off the southern portion of Gaza’s coast to nine nautical miles from six, allowing fishing in areas that had been off limits for a decade.
Palestinian officials welcomed the decision, which they said applied to about 60 percent of Gaza’s Mediterranean coastline.
“I can see hundreds of fishermen and boats — we are excited,” said Zakaria Baker, the Gaza-based head of the fishermen’s committee of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. He spoke by telephone from the small seaport in Gaza shortly before 3 p.m., when the expansion was scheduled to take effect.
But Mr. Baker questioned whether there would be proper protection for the fishermen in the expanded zone, complaining that Israeli naval forces sometimes opened fire on boats even within the permitted area. He said most Gaza fishermen used GPS equipment to measure their distance from shore.
The Israeli military enforces a naval blockade on the Palestinian coastal enclave of Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons smuggling.
Ismail al-Shrafi, 62, a fisherman, said Sunday that he was unable to join his friends who were preparing their boats because the Israelis had confiscated his boat five months ago and taken it to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Mr. Shrafi said that his boat had been fired on and impounded within four nautical miles of Gaza’s coast and that his son, fishing with him, had been injured by the Israeli fire.