Israelis on yacht rescue drowning Mideast refugees

A group of Israelis sailing on a yacht rescued drowning Syrian and Iraqi migrants. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube.

( On Sunday, a yacht from an Israeli civilian navigation school conducting training near the Turkish coast encountered and rescued 11 Syrian and Iraqi migrants whose boat had capsized, in addition to a 6-month-old baby who did not survive.

The group of Israelis from the Ashdod-based Poseidon school saw a boat wreckage in the water, at first spotting and rescuing only one teenager. After searching the area, the group found 11 migrants floating in the water wearing life jackets and brought them on board. The Israelis provided food, water, and first aid to the migrants, and treated one of the migrants for diabetic shock. There were four children among the migrants. Three additional people were missing and were later discovered dead in the water by Greek authorities.

"I've been sailing for 40 years and this is the first time something like this has happened to me,” said Shlomo Asban, the yacht’s captain, according to Yedioth Ahronoth.

“We heard cries for help from the water, stopped the boat and found a teenage refugee with a life vest. We pulled him out of the water and he told us that his brother was missing and apparently dead....We retrieved a total of 12 people, including a dead 6-month-old baby who was in his mother's arms,” Asban said. “The mother held the baby in her arms all night long. We found out they were Syrians and Iraqis, gave them water and cell phones to talk with their families. After we told them that we Jews from Israel, they kissed us and thanked us.”

The yacht then changed course and took the surviving migrants to the nearby Greek island of Kastellorizo. 

"It was hard on us. It’s not easy to see such a sight. We are a team that is at sea a lot and we have never encountered difficult scenes like these. The team behaved properly and acted according to maritime law, which says you have to save people regardless of where they come from. After an hour of sailing, we removed the refugees safely and they were transferred to the Greek authorities,” said Gal Baruch, a resident of Rinatya who was also on board the yacht.

Posted on October 19, 2015 .