Gaza fisherman to sail again as Israel drops curbs

STORY: He's waited ten years for this engine.

Now Palestinian fisherman Falah Abu Reyala will set sail - and work - again, after Israel eased restrictions on the entry of parts into Gaza that it said could also be used to make weapons.

In November, Israel allowed in enough fibreglass to repair 10 fishing boats and, last week, allowed in 12 outboard engines, the United Nations said.

It says some 700 boats await repair.

Repairs are taking place at a U.N.-supervised workshop on the beach, near the so-called "Boat Graveyard" where the broken-down rusty vessels have piled up.

"Today, I received an engine I have waited 10 years to get. The United Nations people came here and conducted a workshop and fixed my boat previously. This is the beginning of the project and the first phase of repairing the boats."

After the Islamist group Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, Israel and Egypt clamped down on its borders, citing security concerns.

Poverty worsened in the cramped enclave and now more than two-thirds of its residents depend on aid.

Manal Al-Najar, is project coordinator for the U.N..

"We are happy that the materials have been imported into Gaza and hope there will be more coming in order to repair all the boats, because this will help fishermen work and help hundreds of families who work in the fishing sector to secure their livelihoods."

Israel's curbs on the supply of parts have been under review for months. Critics argue that improving the Gaza economy also helps to prevent conflict.

Even if seaworthy, Gaza's fishing boats are limited to waters delineated by Israel and Egypt, reducing the size of the catch and in some cases discouraging them from even going out.