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Israel 'arrests Gaza fishermen'

The Israeli navy has arrested four Palestinian fishermen and seized their boat, a Gaza official said, in one of the first instances of friction between the sides since the Gaza war ended last month.

The incident occurred off the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, said Nizar Ayyash of the Gaza Fishermen's Union.

The Israeli military said two vessels were involved in the incident. It said the vessels were operating outside of their permitted maritime limit, and after ignoring requests to move closer to shore, were boarded by naval personnel and seized.

Israel and Hamas-led militants in Gaza ended 50 days of intensive fighting on August 26 and committed to enter into indirect truce talks in Cairo aimed at developing a sustainable roadmap for the future of the densely-populated coastal territory.

As part of the ceasefire deal that halted the fighting, Israel doubled the maritime area in which Gaza fishermen are permitted to operate from three to six miles.

Israel has also hinted at its willingness to consider an additional doubling of the maritime area permitted to Gaza fishermen as part of its efforts to improve overall economic conditions there.

But it remains wary of allowing the fishermen open-ended access to the Mediterranean Sea, fearing their boats could be used to smuggle weapons and weapons-manufacturing materials for use by Hamas militants.

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