TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - Syrian forces killed a Lebanese fisherman and wounded another when they seized a boat suspected of smuggling off the Lebanese-Syrian coast on Saturday, a relative said.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said the sailors were smugglers and that Syria’s naval patrol tried to stop the boat but was fired on by other nearby Lebanese vessels. It said two of the men on the seized boat were wounded by friendly fire.
The border areas between Lebanon and Syria are known for smuggling, and Syrian security services have become especially sensitive to contraband runs since a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad erupted 10 months ago.
Syria complains that its neighbors are not clamping down on smuggling of weapons they say are destined for insurgents.
Residents in Lebanon’s northern coastal town of Arida said they heard gunfire offshore but did not see who was shooting. They said they later saw a Syrian boat towing the Lebanese fishing boat toward the nearby Syrian port of Tartous.
Syrian authorities did not report any deaths to SANA but the agency said two wounded sailors were in hospital. It said a third man had been “turned in to concerned authorities.”
“The port patrol warned the infiltrating boat to stop more than once but the crew did not obey orders and instead threw their cargo overboard and tried to escape toward northern Lebanon,” SANA said.
Lebanese security sources confirmed the seizure of the boat but declined to give details of any casualties.
Ahmed Hamad told Reuters his wife had crossed into Syria and had found their 16-year-old son Maher Hamad dead in a Syrian state hospital. He said a second fisherman had been wounded and the third was being interrogated by Syrian security forces.
Dozens of angry residents and relatives of the fishermen tried to block the Arida border crossing, where they attacked a Syrian truck, smashing its windows, and burned tires.
Security forces prevented the crowd from entering Syria, witnesses said.
Reporting by Nazih Siddiq; Writing by Erika Solomon; Editing by Alistair Lyon