Egypt Seizes Israeli Yacht, Holds 35 on Board 5 Hours
Egypt seized an Israeli yacht off the Sinai Peninsula on Friday but released it five hours later after urgent diplomatic contacts, a senior Israeli official said.
“The yacht was released just moments ago and is now on its way back to its port at Eilat,” the official said, adding that there were at least 31 people on board.
Israel Radio said an Israeli vessel received a message from the yacht Maya at Egypt’s Coral Island saying the craft had been rammed by an Egyptian gunboat. The radio quoted Capt. Aryeh Eliahu as saying his boat was partly flooded and Egyptian military personnel had boarded it with weapons poised.
Eliahu said there were 35 people aboard--15 Israelis, a party of 15 French and West German tourists and five crew members, the radio reported.
According to Eliahu, his craft was about a mile from Coral Island when intercepted, but Egyptian authorities accused him of being only 300 yards offshore.
Egyptians Deny Detaining Vessel
An Egyptian military spokesman denied that the yacht had been detained but said Egypt forced it to return home after it sailed into Egyptian territorial waters without permission.
“It crossed a line where it is not allowed to go, and the Coast Guard said ‘Don’t approach,’ ” said Col. Nagi Tohami. “They let them go back to Israel.”
Israeli officials earlier tried to play down the incident, saying it was routine and would be resolved rapidly.
They said six other Israelis--fishermen from the trawler Dan--were seized in the area after fishing illegally in Egyptian waters but would be released soon. This report, however, was denied by the Egyptian military spokesman.
Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. After several incidents at sea in the first years following Israel’s withdrawal in 1982 from the Sinai, such incidents now are rare.