July 15, 2006

Egypt confirms ship hit off Lebanon, crew safe

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian civilian ship off the coast
of Lebanon was hit during an exchange of fire between Hizbollah
and the Israeli military, Egypt's foreign ministry confirmed on
Saturday, but the crew of 12 survived.

"The 12 sailors have reached Syria safely," Foreign
Ministry spokesman Alaa el-Hadidi said, adding there were no
casualties among the crew of the Egyptian-owned ship.

The Egyptian ship was hit early on Saturday after Hizbollah
launched an attack against a fleet of military vessels Israel
has deployed to impose a naval siege on Lebanon after Hizbollah
captured two Israeli soldiers on Wednesday.

Israel said that a missile fired at an Israeli naval vessel
off Lebanon missed its target and hit the Egyptian civilian
boat instead. Egypt's state news agency MENA reported the ship
was hit by mistake by Israeli fire.

"It (the ship) was hit and it was damaged," Hadidi added,
saying it appeared the vessel was caught in crossfire between
Israeli forces and Hizbollah. But he said it was too early to
say which side had fired the shot that hit the ship.

"It's a war zone," he said.

The official Syrian news agency SANA said the sailors were
receiving treatment in a Syrian hospital.

The sailors were transported to the port of Tartous, where
a health official said most of them were in a stable condition,
except for one sailor who had serious wounds, SANA said.

Israel has vowed to recover the captured soldiers and smash
Hizbollah. Israeli warplanes have struck targets across Beirut
and southern Lebanon, killing at least 103 people.

The violence is the fiercest since 1996 when Israel
launched a 17-day blitz on Hizbollah strongholds in south
Lebanon, four years before ended a 22-year Israeli occupation