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Egyptian Coast Guard Seizure of Israeli Boat Criticized

Israeli officials have expressed disapproval of the Egyptian coast guard’s move to ram and seize an Israeli excursion boat in the Gulf of Eilat on Friday. But the Foreign Ministry is awaiting further details of the incident before deciding how Israel will respond.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Sunday that the incident was not the sort of thing that should occur between friendly nations and was “completely unnecessary.”

Information so far indicates that the seizure was an independent initiative, not coordinated with authorities in Cairo. The Maya, with 35 Israeli passengers and crew aboard, was intercepted by the Egyptian patrol ship, rammed and towed to the Egyptian coast guard station on Coral Island in the gulf.

The Maya’s deck and hull were damaged, but no one was hurt. Its passengers and crew were detained. After several hours, they were allowed to return to Eilat aboard the Maya, apparently on orders from the authorities in Cairo.

The captain of the Maya, Moshe Saar, said he was about a mile offshore when attacked. He said the Egyptians ordered him not to use his radio. He also said he refused to sign a statement that his vessel had sustained no damage.

According to the Egyptians, the Maya was only about 300 yards offshore in Egyptian waters and failed to heed orders to stand clear.

An Israeli fishing boat with six persons aboard was reported to have been seized by the Egyptian navy in the Red Sea on Friday. Apparently no further information had been received by Sunday to confirm the report.

Meanwhile, the Maya was off again Sunday, carrying about 30 tourists. The damage will be repaired at a later date.

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