The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria has reported that a ship carrying hundreds of Palestinian and Syrian refugees who fled from Syria drowned in the Mediterranean close to Libyan shores after coming under fire from Libyan side on Friday.The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said that it is following the developments and contacting all related authorities to ensure rescue operations for surviving refugees.
The BBC has reported that shot were fired at the ship as it left Libyan shores, and that bullet holes caused the boat to sink.
It added that 33 refugees died in the attack, and that the incident just comes one week after more than 350 migrants were killed in a shipwreck near Lampedusa Italian Island.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said that President Mahmoud Abbas instructed it and all related institutions to closely monitor and aid rescue attempts, and that Foreign Minister, Riyad Al-Maliki, formed a committee operating in the Palestinian embassies in Libya, Malta, Italy and Egypt. The committee will be working around the clock in direct communication with Italy, Malta and Libya.
Palestinian Ambassador to Malta, Jubran Taweel, stated that the Maltese Navy has rescued 147 persons, including 40 Palestinian refugees who fled Syria, and the Italian Navy has rescued around 57 refugees.
Taweel added that he went to a Maltese hospital and refugee center, where the surviving victims were moved to, and that he is in direct communication with all related authorities to observe rescue efforts.
According to the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, the ship started sinking after it came under fire from Libyan gunmen late on Thursday evening [October 10] but continue to sail until Friday at dawn.
It added that all communications with the ship were lost since then, and the disaster was only uncovered on Sunday evening.
One of the survivors told in Malta said that the ship was targeted by Libyan navy fire, and that two refugee were shot and injured, but the ship continue its path until its engines completely stopped, and it started to sink.
The ship left Libyan ports after the refugees who fled Syria due to the war and insecurity, faced similar circumstances in Libya.
Surviving refugees urged all related international institutions and groups, the International Red cross, to save their relatives, as dozens are still missing.
Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), head of the Refugees Department, Zakaria al-Agha, said that this incident is another indication of the suffering and miserable conditions the refugee face.
He added that on October 11 2013, a ship carrying refugees drowned close to Alexandria Port in Egypt, leading to the death of 12 persons, including two Palestinian refugees.
Al-Agha told the Palestine News Network (PNN) that the Palestinian refugees in Syria face very difficult conditions due to the ongoing conflict, and that refugee camps in Syria have been repeatedly bombarded.
He further stated that dozens of thousands of refugees left Syria to nearby Arab countries, leaving everything behind and endangering their own lives in search for refuge and safety.
Al-Agha confirmed to PNN that surviving refugees said that, identifying themselves as Libyan Navy, gunmen in civilian clothes opened fire at the boat causing it to drown. He demanded Libya to investigate the incident.