Naval Patrol Kills Man in Suspect Fishing Boat Off Gaza Coast

Ziad Bardawil, 22, was killed early yesterday morning when his fishing boat was sunk by an Israeli Navy vessel off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip. A second person in the boat was still missing at press time.

Early yesterday, at about 1 A.M., a naval patrol noticed a fishing boat traveling from the Rafah area toward Egypt, apparently with a single occupant.

When the boat returned, the sailors saw two occupants. They ordered the boat to stop as soon as it entered a prohibited zone, then fired a warning shot into the air and finally fired at the prow of the boat.

According to the initial naval investigation, during the arrest procedure shots were fired at the patrol from the shore, and the fishing boat speeded up.

Israel Defense Forces officials said that all the circumstances pointed to unauthorized activities on the part of those in the fishing boat.

The officials said the patrol's commander thought at the time that light weapons fire came from the boat as well. The sailors decided to sink it.

The videotape on the patrol boat that was recording the unit's activity ran out about three minutes before the incident.

IDF officials said yesterday that the motives of the fishing boat's occupants could not be determined at this stage. One theory is that the boat was transporting an unauthorized individual from Egypt to the Palestinian Authority. Another is that those on the boat were trying to smuggle arms.

"According to our initial investigation, the commander of the Israeli vessel acted in accordance with all instructions despite the difficult conditions and despite being under fire," the IDF said yesterday. The incident is still under investigation.

Palestinian sources say the fishing boat was in a permitted area near Egyptian territorial waters.

Bardawil died on the way to hospital in Rafah after being rescued by other fishermen. His funeral was held in the city yesterday afternoon.

In an unrelated incident, Israel Defense Forces soldiers shot dead a Palestinian near the Gaza border on Friday after he and two others tried to cross illegally into Israel.

Sayid Abu Libdeh, a teenager whose age has been variously reported between 15 and 18, was killed and his two teenage companions were moderately wounded by IDF soldiers who shot them after seeing them climbing the border fence. The IDF alerted Palestinian security forces, who took them to hospital.

Palestinian security officials said the three were mentally retarded and were trying to enter Israel in search of work. None was carrying a weapon.