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Israel Seizes Lebanese Boats, Arresting Several Passengers

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Israel intercepted two Lebanese boats in the Mediterranean on Tuesday and brought several of passengers suspected of being terrorists to Israel for questioning.

The remaining passengers and crew, as well as the boats themselves, were allowed to proceed on their way, the Israel Defense Force spokesman said in announcing the incident Wednesday.

There was no immediate information about how many passengers were taken and what Israel intends to do with them.

The boats, on their way from Lebanon to Cyprus, were intercepted by an Israeli naval vessel on routine patrol off the Lebanese coast.

In southern Lebanon, meanwhile, an Israeli soldier was wounded Tuesday, when his vehicle hit a land mine in the eastern sector of the Israeli-controlled security zone.

It took more than three hours to extricate the injured man from the wreckage, after which he was flown by helicopter to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where his condition was described as fair.

Israeli authorities, meanwhile, are contending with a flood of refugees who have fled the fierce and bloody fighting in Beirut in recent days and attempted to find haven in the security zone.

10,000 FROM THE NORTH

Maj. Gen. Yossi Peled, IDF commander of the northern front, said as many as 10,000 refugees have arrived from the area surrounding the Lebanese capital.

“Their coming demonstrates where they thought they could find safety in Lebanon,” Peled said Tuesday night in an address to the Friends of Haifa University.

Israeli leaders have said the southward move of those fleeing the internecine warfare in Lebanon proves the efficacy of the Israeli-controlled security zone, which provides a haven for local residents and enhances Israel’s security by forming a buffer zone in which many would-be terrorist infiltrators have been killed or captured.

Peled said that despite the risks and difficulties involved, “we decided not to close the zone” to the refugees from Beirut. He said the refugees had filled the hospitals Israel has established in the zone.

Peled said that during the past three years, the IDF had killed 700 terrorists and wounded another 500 along Israel’s northern border. He added, though, that whereas the terrorists were a great nuisance, only the Syrians pose a threat to Israel’s existence.

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