Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar called Thursday on Egyptian authorities to release five Palestinian fishermen sentenced a day earlier to a year in jail for illegally entering Egypt’s territorial waters, Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported.
An Egyptian military court sentenced on Wednesday the five Gaza fishermen to a year in jail and a LE500 fine (around $72) for crossing into the country’s territorial waters days earlier.
“Those fishermen are simple people who don’t have any other employment than fishing to earn a living and spend on their families," Al-Zahar told MENA.
“During the last months, fishermen would go fish near the borders, escaping from the Zionist occupation forces who would open fire on their boats and restrict the area of fishing in Gaza’s sea,” he explained.
“This region … is for fishing and not for smuggling or tampering with Egypt’s security,” Al-Zahar added.
Sunday, Egypt's army spokesman, Colonel Ahmed Ali, said the military confiscated in the Northern Sinai Peninsula a number of munitions, including hand grenades bearing the stamp of the Ezzeddin Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military arm.
Relations between Egypt and Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, have sharply deteriorated since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted 3 July by the military, following mass protest calling for his departure.
Since then, Egypt has repeatedly accused the Palestinian Islamist movement, an ideological off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, of interfering in its internal affairs to support Morsi and the Brotherhood.
Gaza’s government spokesman Ihab Al-Ghussein also called Thursday on Egypt to review the case of the five fishermen, saying the ruling could further increase tensions between the two neighbours, Palestinian official news agency Al-RAI reported.
On Sunday, Hamas accused Egyptian naval forces of opening fire on Palestinian fishermen off the Gaza Strip’s southern coast and arresting two of them.