TEL AVIV (Jul. 2)
Israel will release five of the nine passengers taken off a Beirut-bound Cypriot car ferry that was intercepted by the Israeli navy on the high seas Friday and escorted to Haifa in what the Foreign Ministry said was an anti-terrorist operation.
The vessel, the Panamanian-flag Alisur Blance, was released late Friday and completed its voyage to Beirut, begun a day earlier at Larnaca, Cyprus-Israeli security agents screened all 63 passengers and held nine of them over the weekend for questioning. Five are expected to be turned over to the International Red Cross today or tomorrow for transportation to Beirut.
No details were released about the other four and their identities have not been disclosed. Apparently they are being held for further questioning. According to reports yesterday, the ferry was intercepted on the basis of information that one or more terrorists were aboard bound for Beirut.
Meanwhile, the south Lebanese ports of Tyre and Sidon were reopened today after being shut down for the better part of a week by the Israel Defense Force. The IDF said the closure was necessary to tighten security against arms smuggling into south Lebanon.