IDF Apprehends Smuggling Boats on Gaza Coast

Four fishermen missing in latest escalation of Hamas's 'marine intifada'; IDF cracking down on weapons smuggling from Egypt.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Gaza coast
Gaza coast
Flash 90

Gaza's "marine intifada" has escalated further, AFP reports Monday, after the Israeli navy apprehended six fishermen who were smuggling weapons into Gaza from Egypt. 

The Israeli navy fired on two boats off the coast, officials from the Hamas-run security services told the news agency, leaving two fishermen wounded and four missing. It was not immediately clear whether the four had been arrested, the officials added.

The Israeli military confirmed that naval fire had destroyed one boat it said had been involved in smuggling, but had no information about the four fishermen reported missing.

The two wounded fishermen were pulled out of the water off the southern port of Rafah after the Israeli fire destroyed both boats, a Hamas security official said.

The Israeli military said that naval vessels had tracked a boat engaged in smuggling from nearby Egypt. "The navy identified a fishing boat which had left the Gaza shore and went down towards Egypt," a statement said.

"The forces followed the boat and identified it heading back towards Gaza, fully loaded," it said, adding that Israeli warships had fired warning shots before targeting the vessel when it failed to respond.

"The smuggling attempt was foiled and the target was destroyed," it said, without indicating what the boat had been carrying.

Following the end of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in August, Israel has allowed Arab fishermen to venture six nautical miles (about 9.5 km) from the Gaza shore.

But as fisherman continue to complain over restraints on their movement - designed to prevent terrorism and to separate Hamas from its weapons suppliers - IDF officials raised concerns last month that they may be systematically creeping towards the Israeli shore. 

Meanwhile, the defense establishment has expressed growing concern over attempts to smuggle weapons by sea, in attempts to replenish the arsenal the IDF destroyed during the Gaza war.

To combat this, the Navy has been working closely with the Egyptian Navy, sources said, as Egypt is also in the midst of its own crackdown on Islamist terrorism. 



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