Rescuers: Mediterranean Boat Carrying 500 Migrants Has Disappeared

FILE PHOTO: Migrants from sub-saharan African countries on a dinghy react as they are towed by a rescue boat during their effort to cross part of the Aegean Sea from Türkiye to the island of Lesbos, Greece, February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Migrants from sub-saharan African countries on a dinghy react as they are towed by a rescue boat during their effort to cross part of the Aegean Sea from Türkiye to the island of Lesbos, Greece, February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo
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Rescuers: Mediterranean Boat Carrying 500 Migrants Has Disappeared

FILE PHOTO: Migrants from sub-saharan African countries on a dinghy react as they are towed by a rescue boat during their effort to cross part of the Aegean Sea from Türkiye to the island of Lesbos, Greece, February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Migrants from sub-saharan African countries on a dinghy react as they are towed by a rescue boat during their effort to cross part of the Aegean Sea from Türkiye to the island of Lesbos, Greece, February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo

A boat carrying about 500 migrants, including a newborn baby and pregnant women, has disappeared in the central Mediterranean, two charities said on Friday.

Alarm Phone, a group that picks up calls from migrant vessels in distress, said it lost contact with the boat on Wednesday morning.

At the time, the boat was adrift, with no working engine, in high seas about 320 km (200 miles) north of the Libyan port of Benghazi and more than 400 km away from Malta or Italy's southern island of Sicily.

Italian NGO Emergency said on Thursday its Life Support ship and the Ocean Viking, another charity vessel, had unsuccessfully looked for the missing boat for 24 hours, but found no sign of any shipwreck.

According to Reuters, a spokesperson for Emergency said on Friday the search was still on, adding that the migrants might have been picked up by another boat or may have managed to fix their engine and continue sailing towards Sicily.

The Italian Coast Guard reported on Thursday the rescue of 423 and 671 migrants in two separate operations in Italian search and rescue waters, and Alarm Phone said they were unrelated to the missing boat.

The Italian coast guard had no immediate comment.

In a separate incident, German charity SOS Humanity said 27 migrants were picked up at sea by an oil tanker and illegally taken back to Libya.

Under international humanitarian law, migrants cannot be forcibly returned to countries where they risk serious
ill-treatment, and widespread migrant abuse has been extensively documented in Libya.

Performance Shipping, the Greek company that owns the P. Long Beach tanker allegedly involved in the incident, did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via the company's website.



Israel Pounds Central Gaza Camps, Deepens Invasion of Rafah

A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS
A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS
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Israel Pounds Central Gaza Camps, Deepens Invasion of Rafah

A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS
A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS

Israeli forces pounded areas in the central Gaza Strip overnight, killing three people and wounding dozens of others, according to medics, while tanks deepened their invasion into Rafah in the south, residents said.
Israeli planes struck a house in Al-Nuseirat camp, killing two people and wounding 12 others, while tanks shelled areas in Al-Maghazi and Al-Bureij camps, wounding many other people, health officials said, according to Reuters. Nuseirat, Maghazi, and Bureij are three of Gaza's eight historic refugee camps.
In Deir al-Balah, a city packed with displaced people in the central Gaza Strip, an Israeli airstrike killed one Palestinian and wounded several others on Thursday, medics said.
The Israeli military said on Wednesday forces were continuing their operations across the enclave targeting militants and military infrastructure in what it described as "precise, intelligence-based" activities.
More than eight months into the war in Gaza, Israel's advance is now focused on the two last areas its forces had yet to storm: Rafah on Gaza's southern edge and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the center. The operations have forced more than a million people to flee since May, the vast majority already displaced from other parts of the enclave.
In Rafah, near the border with Egypt, Israeli tanks stationed deep in the western and central areas of the city stepped up bombardment, forcing more families living in the far coastal areas to flee northward. Some residents said the pace of the raid has been accelerated in the past two days.
"The tanks took control of most of the areas in Rafah. People living by the beach have also started to leave toward Khan Younis and central areas in fear because of the continued bombardment," said Abu Wasim, a resident from Rafah's Al-Shaboura neighborhood, who quit his home over a week ago before tanks rolled in reaching the heart of the city.
Rafah housed over half of Gaza's 2.3 million people until May 7 when Israeli forces began the ground offensive into the city. Fewer than 100,000 are now believed to be left behind.
There has been no sign of let-up in the fighting as efforts by international mediators, backed by the United States, have failed to persuade Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.
The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said fighters battled Israeli forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, and have in some areas detonated pre-planted explosive devices against army units.
On Thursday, Israeli authorities freed 33 Palestinians who had been detained during the past months by Israeli forces in different areas of the enclave. The freed detainees were admitted into Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip after they complained of torture and mistreatment by Israeli jailers.