UNIFIL rescues boat carrying 32 Syrians, 1 Lebanese

A UNIFIL team approaches a boat overcrowded with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday. (AP)
Updated 13 October 2018
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UNIFIL rescues boat carrying 32 Syrians, 1 Lebanese

  • The boat, believed to be run by people smugglers, was on its way to Cyrprus
  • It was the first time that the UNIFIL had carried out such a mission at sea

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Navy received on Thursday a boat rescued by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). 

The boat was carrying 32 Syrians and one Lebanese. The incident was linked to a similar one around three weeks ago, against a backdrop of increased maritime people smuggling, Lebanon’s military told Arab News.

UNIFIL said in a statement that its Maritime Task Force “participated in a search and rescue operation at sea after receiving reports on Wednesday of a missing boat off the coast of Lebanon.”

The statement added: “UNIFIL was informed that a small boat, allegedly heading toward Cyprus, was missing. UNIFIL tasked its Maritime Force to locate the missing vessel.”

It said: “UNIFIL’s flagship, BRS Liberal, found a small white boat northwest of Beirut in the area of responsibility of Rescue Coordinator Center Beirut.”

According to UNIFIL, “there were 32 passengers on board: 19 men, six women and seven children. The boat was out of fuel and the passengers had been without food and water for four days.”

The statement said: “While waiting for the Lebanese Navy to arrive, UNIFIL naval peacekeepers distributed water and food, and provided medical assistance.”

It added: “After the Lebanese Navy arrived at the scene, the passengers were able to board the Lebanese patrol boats and arrived at Beirut port on Friday, escorted by UNIFIL.”

UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said this was the first time that the interim force had carried out such a mission at sea.

“This task isn’t within the mandate given to us by the (UN) Security Council as per resolution 1701, but international maritime laws allow us to carry out this mission,” he told Arab News.

“UNIFIL has seven ships roaming Lebanese waters. One of them received a signal from the boat and traced its location, and UNIFIL communicated with Lebanese authorities in this regard.”

The Directorate of Orientation of the Lebanese Army Command said in a statement that the passengers “underwent a medical examination by military medical teams and the Lebanese Red Cross, and investigations started under the supervision of the competent judiciary.”

A Lebanese military source said the Lebanese man on board was “the one sailing toward Cyprus. The boat set off from an illegal point on the northern Lebanese coast.”

Some three weeks ago, the Lebanese Navy rescued 39 people on board a boat that carried them from an illegal point in northern Lebanon toward Cyprus but sank in Lebanese waters.

A naval patrol retrieved the body of a 5-year-old Palestinian boy and rescued the others, most of them Syrian and Palestinian refugees from Nahr Al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon.


Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 23 May 2019
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Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

  • Israel reduced the fishing limit to 10 nautical miles
  • The countries agreed to 20 nautical miles in the Oslo accords of 1990s

JERUSALEM: Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.
The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.
“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.
“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel,” it added.
Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.
Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.
The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 cease-fire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.
The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.