JERUSALEM (AFP) - Two Israeli rights groups demanded on Sunday that Israel lift fishing restrictions imposed on Gaza after fighters fired two rockets across the border, slamming them as “collective punishment.”

Israel on Thursday halved the area in which Palestinian fishermen are permitted to work, closed the Kerem Shalom goods terminal and imposed restrictions on people wanting to leave the territory after two rockets hit southern Israel, causing damage but no casualties.

The move, which saw the fishing zone cut from six nautical miles to three, was condemned by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem as well as by Gisha, which campaigns for Palestinian freedom of movement. “The decision to once again reduce the fishing range in response to missile fire by armed groups constitutes collective punishment imposed on fishermen for the actions of others,” said a statement from B’Tselem.

It said Israel’s duty to protect its citizens “cannot justify the harsh damage to fishermen who have done nothing wrong”. “B’Tselem calls on the military to rescind its latest decision and the restrictions imposed on fishermen in the Gaza Strip in the past years, and to permit fishing in the 20 (nautical) miles range, as was set under the Oslo agreements.”

In a letter to Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, Gisha director Sari Bashi said it was “the second time in less than a month” Israel had blocked civilian travel and goods transfer in response to rocket fire and urged him to lift the restrictions.

Meanwhile, activists and police said on Sunday that hundreds of Israeli police for the second time dismantled a Palestinian protest encampment on the outskirts of Jerusalem overnight.

Activists set up the camp, known as Bab al-Shams, on a patch of land known as E1 which lies between east Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim in a bid to draw attention to controversial Israeli plans to build there.

Tents were pitched on Wednesday to highlight the issue at the start of a landmark three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories by US President Barack Obama - his first since taking office more than four years ago.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said on Sunday it had arrested five Palestinian teenagers on suspicion of involvement in a stone-throwing attack which critically injured an Israeli toddler.

The domestic security agency said the suspects, aged 16-17, confessed to stoning vehicles driven by Israeli settlers near the Palestinian village of Haris, in the northern West Bank, on March 14. Seven Israelis were wounded on that day, including a woman from the Yakir settlement who lost control of her vehicle and ploughed into the back of a parked lorry with her three young daughters, the agency said in a statement.

“The driver and two of the daughters were moderately injured, and a third daughter, about three years, old was critically injured and remains hospitalised today,” said a military statement, also released on Sunday.