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Weeks after holding body of slain teenage fisherman, Israel returns body for burial

March 18, 2018 3:50 P.M. (Updated: March 18, 2018 5:26 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Thousands of Palestinians marched in the funeral of the slain Palestinian fisherman, Ismail Abu Riyala, 18, in the al-Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

The funeral march set off from the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza city, where Abu Riyala’s body was sent on Wednesday by Israeli authorities, who had been holding his body for weeks.

Mourners waved Palestinian flags and chanted national slogans, condemning Israel’s killing of the teen.

This story continues below.

Abu Riyala was killed by Israeli forces on February 25 while fishing off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip.

Reyala was sailing with Mahmoud Adel Abu Reyala, who was injured with a bullet to the chest, and Ahed Abu Ali, who were released hours after their arrest.

Reuters quoted the Israeli army spokeswoman as saying that a Palestinian vessel was shot at “after it had deviated from the designated fishing zone” in the northern Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the Gaza fishermen’s union said Abu Reyala’s boat was targeted as it was making its way back to shore, and that the fishermen did not violate the limits of the fishing zone.

As part of Israel's blockade off the coastal enclave since 2007, Palestinian fishermen have been required to work within a limited "designated fishing zone."

The exact limits of the zone are decided by the Israeli authorities and have historically fluctuated, most recently extended to six nautical miles from three, following a ceasefire agreement that ended Israel's 2014 offensive on the Palestinian territory.

However, the fishing zone was technically set to 20 nautical miles according to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PA in the early 1990s.

The Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) issued last month its annual report for 2017 detailing Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the besieged Gaza Strip, highlighting that “these attacks deny fishermen from practicing their fishing work and accessing their livelihood resources.”

The report states that Israeli forces carried out shooting operations and chased down the fishermen hundreds of times, even while inside the designated fishing zone, “causing dozens of casualties as well as destroying and confiscating boats and fishing gears.”

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem recently concluded that Israel’s Gaza closure and “harassment of fishermen” have been “destroying Gaza’s fishing sector,” with 95 percent of fishermen living below the poverty line.

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