UN peacekeepers rescue 36 off Lebanese coast 
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UN peacekeepers rescue 36 off Lebanese coast 

One migrant dies before rescue; Lebanon and neighboring Cyprus report several migrant vessels trying to leave the Middle Eastern country in recent weeks

Illustrative: Migrants and refugees panic as they fall in the water during a rescue operation of the Topaz Responder rescue ship run by Maltese NGO Moas and Italian Red Cross, off the Libyan coast in the  Mediterranean Sea, on November 3, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/ANDREAS SOLARO)
Illustrative: Migrants and refugees panic as they fall in the water during a rescue operation of the Topaz Responder rescue ship run by Maltese NGO Moas and Italian Red Cross, off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea, on November 3, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/ANDREAS SOLARO)

BEIRUTLebanon — A UN peacekeeping force rescued 36 people, mostly Syrians, and recovered the body of a passenger from a boat off the Lebanese coast on Monday, according to the UN refugee agency.

The destination of the boat was not immediately clear, but Lebanon and neighboring Cyprus have reported several migrant vessels trying to leave the Middle Eastern country in recent weeks.

A UNIFIL “ship located at sea outside Lebanese territorial waters a boat with 37 people inside. Unfortunately, one of them had already passed away,” it said in a statement, without providing details on the cause of death.

It said the survivors were given medical treatment onboard the UNIFIL ship.

A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency said 25 of the migrants were Syrians, eight Lebanese, and the remaining three of other nationalities.

“They arrived this afternoon at the port of Beirut and were taken in charge by the Lebanese Red Cross, UNHCR and the Lebanese authorities,” UNHCR’s Lisa Abou Khaled said.

A handout image released by the Cyprus Defense Ministry on September 24, 2014 shows a large fishing trawler overloaded with people in the Mediterranean Sea. (photo credit: AFP/HO/ Cyprus Defense Ministry)

“Some were transferred to hospital, while we distributed food, water, and clothes” to the others, she added.

The Lebanese army on September 8 said it had prevented a group of Syrians and Lebanese from illegally leaving by sea from the northern city of Tripoli.

Cyprus the day before had said it would send a team to Lebanon to help authorities stop boats with migrants heading for the Mediterranean island just 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.

At least five boats carrying over 150 migrants had been spotted off the coast of the island in previous days.

Lebanon, which hosts around 1.5 million people displaced from neighboring war-torn Syria, is in the grips of its worst economic crisis in decades.

Vehicles of a convoy of United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on a road along the border between Lebanon and Israel near the southern Lebanese town of Kfar Kila on September 1, 2019. (Ali DIA / AFP)

The financial crunch has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and a massive blast at the Beirut port last month that killed more than 190 people and ravaged large parts of the capital.

UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to patrol the border between Lebanon and Israel which remain technically at war.

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