CORRECTED-Hamas appeals to Egypt after Israel halves Gaza fishing zone

Reuters Middle East

(Corrects kilometre figure in paragraph 5)

* Israel shuts crossing, curbs fishing after rocket strike

* Egypt says received complaints from Hamas and Israel

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA, March 22 (Reuters) - Hamas complained to Egypt on

Friday after Israel suspended part of a Cairo-brokered truce

agreement by halving Palestinian access to fishing waters in

response to a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip.

Thursday's salvo at the Israeli border town of Sderot, which

caused no casualties, coincided with a visit to Israel and the

Israeli-occupied West Bank by U.S. President Barack Obama.

It was claimed by a small al Qaeda-linked faction that has

challenged the Islamist Hamas group's rule in the Gaza Strip.

Israel, which holds Hamas responsible for any violence

emanating from the enclave, retaliated by shutting the Kerem

Shalom commercial crossing on the Gaza border and by enforcing a

newly restricted 5 km (3 mile) wide fishing zone.

The zone had been extended to 11 km (6 miles) as part of an

Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended an eight-day conflict

between Israel and Hamas in November, in which 166 Palestinians

and six Israelis were killed.

"We have informed Cairo of this violation and we are waiting

to hear a clear position from Egyptian mediators on this," Hamas

spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, giving no indication that Hamas

wanted to abandon the ceasefire arrangement.

An Egyptian official confirmed that the Hamas complaint had

been received, saying Israel had complained separately about the

rocket attack - the second of its kind since November.

The official said Cairo would contact both sides to "restore

their commitment to the truce". Israel said on Thursday its new

Gaza restrictions would be in place until further notice.

Magles Shoura al-Mujahedeen, a hardline Islamist Salafi

faction with a small presence in Gaza and the neighbouring

Egyptian Sinai, claimed responsibility for the salvo on Sderot.

In an online statement, the group said it had struck during

Obama's visit to show up Israeli air defences - a likely

reference to Israel's U.S.-backed Iron Dome rocket shield.

Magles Shoura al-Muhajedeen and Hamas are both hostile to

Israel. But the Salafis accuse Hamas of diluting Islamist

doctrine by seeking accommodation with secular Palestinians.

Hamas has at times cracked down on the Salafis, seeing them

as a threat to the stability of the impoverished Gaza Strip.

On Thursday the Hamas administration's spokesman Taher

al-Nono questioned whether rockets had been fired from Gaza and

reaffirmed commitment to the "mutual calm agreement brokered by

Cairo".

Reducing Gaza's fishing waters spelled losses for some 3,000

Palestinians whose livelihood depends on the sea.

"There is nothing to catch within three miles from shore,"

said fisherman Talal Shweikh, 62. "All the fish that you see in

the market today came from Egypt."

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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