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Engine Trouble Delays Arrival of Ship From Syria

October 21, 1995

LARNACA, Cyprus (AP) _ The plight of 659 Palestinians stranded at sea was prolonged for at least another day Saturday when a ferry sent by Syria to pick them up broke down on the way.

The Palestinians, who include 332 children under the age of 10, were expelled from Libya to Syria on Oct. 13.

Syria initially refused to take them in and their ferry, the Countess M, set sail for Cyprus, setting down anchor Tuesday off the southern port of Larnaca.

The Syrians since have agreed to take 590 passengers who have Syrian documents. Most of the 69 people who don’t have papers are children of passengers who do. It is unclear what will happen to them.

Even those supposed to leave on the Syrian ferry may not be able to do so right away. The ferry, the Faysa Express, can hold no more than 200 people at a time.

The ferry was expected to reach Larnaca by late Saturday, providing repairmen can fix the engine. In any case, the Palestinians won’t be sailing to Syria before Sunday, said Larnaca Port Master George Mikellides.

In August, Libya ordered 30,000 Palestinians to leave to demonstrate Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s opposition to peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians. At least 1,500 have been expelled since then.

Libya reportedly expelled another 40 Palestinians to a desert camp on the Egyptian-Libyan border Saturday, joining 900 refugees who have spent weeks in the no man’s land.

The Palestinians arrived at the camp apparently without travel documents to cross the border, Egyptian television reported. The group is believed to be the the biggest sent to the Egyptian-Libyan border in more than a week.

Most Arab countries have refused to receive the deported Palestinians, saying they should be accommodated in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinians have gained autonomy under 1993 peace accords.

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