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Israeli Shots at King Hussein’s Yacht Told : Monarch on Deck as Navy Boat Opens Fire, Newspaper Says

From Associated Press

An Israeli navy boat fired at the yacht of Jordan’s King Hussein as the monarch was standing on deck, an Israeli newspaper reported today.

A military spokesman confirmed that a navy vessel was carrying out a “routine weapons check” in the vicinity of Hussein’s yacht, but said no shots were fired directly at it. Spokesmen for Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and the Defense Ministry could not be reached for comment.

The liberal daily Haaretz said the incident occurred last Saturday in the Gulf of Aqaba. There were no reports of damage or injuries.

Jordan protested sharply to Israel and the United States. Israeli officials refused to apologize but assured Jordan that it will not happen again, the newspaper said.

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President Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III expressed anger when informed about the incident, the newspaper said.

Haaretz said Hussein’s yacht was sailing in international waters, accompanied by a Jordanian navy vessel, when the Israeli patrol boat opened fire.

“Nobody could have had any doubt that the king was on the boat,” the newspaper quoted one of the sources as saying. “He was standing on the deck, and it was possible to identify him easily.”

After the first shots were fired, the king took over command of the yacht and ordered the vessel to turn around and head toward Saudi Arabian waters, the report said.

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The Israeli vessel accelerated and continued to fire as it followed the king’s yacht. Only when the royal yacht reached Saudi waters did the Israeli patrol boat hold its fire, the report said.

It said neither the king’s bodyguards nor the Jordanian navy vessel accompanying the yacht returned fire during the chase.

Israel’s military command released a statement today denying the report and said “no shots were fired by the Israeli navy at King Hussein’s yacht and no chase was conducted.”

The statement said a naval vessel did conduct routine firing of a few bullets in order to check its guns, but they were aimed toward empty waters to the south.

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