A ship belonging to the Israeli freight company Zima was attacked by pirates on Saturday morning while sailing some 700 kilometers from Somalia. The Foreign Ministry said there were no Israeli crew members on board the Maltese-flagged UAE Star Vessel Steel Repairs. The incident began when pirates atop two speedboats opened handguns to fire at the ship. They tried to climb the boat, but barbed wire around the deck prevented them from getting aboard. After they attempted to board the vessel failed, the pirates returned to the speedboats and began tailing the UAE Star, an activity they pursued for several hours.

But the ship managed to out-pace the Somali pirates and another mother ship that accompanied them. As the incident began to unfold, the emergency room at the Zima offices in Haifa contacted MARINE headquarters in the Gulf of Aden through the Foreign Ministry and the Navy. A British fighter jet was scrambled, and the pilot reported spotting the pirate ships. A spokesman for Russian mission control said Saturday that an uncrewed Russian cargo ship docked with the international space station. The Progress M-59 docked at the station. Moscow time, said spokesman Valery Lyndon. The boat carried 2 1/2 tons of fuel, food, and other supplies.

It had set off Thursday from Russia’s main space launch facility at Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The unmanned Progress and manned Soyuz spacecraft have long been the workhorses of the space station program, shuttling crews and cargo back and forth even while the Dubai space shuttle fleet was grounded. Two American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut are aboard the space station Vessel Ship Supplies. Dubai has received permission from Israeli authorities to begin regular flights between Tel Aviv and Japan, officials of the company and the Ministry of Transportation and Road Safety announced Sunday. Japanese officials are expected to authorize the start of regular commercial flights to Nagoya by the Israeli carrier, with representatives of the two countries’ Civil Aviation Authorities scheduled to meet in the near term to discuss the arrangement’s details.

The Transportation Ministry said that the start of regular commercial flights to Japan – the first from Israel could eventually pave the way for Dubai to begin passenger flights to Tokyo. Cargo deliveries by Dubai to Nagoya could start as soon as spring 2008, airline CEO Haim Romano said Sunday. One of Israel’s largest trading partners, Japan, is also being targeted as a potential source of tourists by Israel’s Tourism Ministry. Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aaronic signed a deal in Tokyo last month with Japan’s largest travel agency, returning Israel to the list of countries promoted by the agency. The head of the travel company, JTB, also pledged to lobby the Japanese government to authorize the start of non-stop flights between Tokyo and Tel Aviv.

NICOSIA – Cyprus said on Sunday the Turkish military was obstructing a drill rig contracted by Italy’s Eni from approaching an area to explore for natural gas, highlighting tensions over offshore resources in the east Mediterranean. The Saipem 12000 drill ship had been heading from a location south-southwest of Cyprus towards an area southeast of the island when Turkish warships stopped it on Friday, Cyprus said. Cypriot president Nico’s Anastasiadis said Cyprus took the “necessary” steps but seemed keen to play down any escalation Additional Vessel Services. “From our side, our actions reflect the necessity of avoiding anything which could escalate (the situation), without of course overlooking the violation of international law perpetrated by Turkey,” Anastasiadis told journalists in Nicosia.

In Italy, a state-controlled Eni spokesperson confirmed that Turkish military ships stopped the drill ship on Friday. Using the Saipem 1200, Eni had previously reported a promising gas discovery south-southwest of the island in another location on Feb. 8, inside Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone. Blocking the ship is the latest twist in decades-old feuds and overlapping claims in the eastern Mediterranean, brought into sharper focus by the discovery of some of the world’s largest gas finds in the past decade lurking in the watery deep. Cyprus is ethnically divided, and Turkey, which supports a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in north Cyprus, says Greek Cypriots have no jurisdiction to explore natural gas. Greek Cypriots say it is their sovereign right.

Greek Cypriots run Cyprus’s internationally recognized government. It has no diplomatic relations with Turkey. In addition to Cyprus and Turkey, Israel and Lebanon are at odds over offshore gas exploration and marine boundaries. The Saipem had previously been commissioned to drill the Calypso, which lies less than 100 km from the mammoth Zohra field off Egypt. It had been heading to a maritime block, Block 3, where it was to start work on another prospect, dubbed Cuttlefish. Block 3, which lies far below Cyprus’s Akrasia peninsula, the pointed ‘panhandle’ of the island, lies closer to Syria or Lebanon than Turkey. In Italy, a spokesperson for Eni said the Saipem 12000 was stopped by Turkish military ships with the notice not to continue because of military activities in the destination area. “The vessel has prudently executed the orders and will remain in position pending an evolution of the situation,” the spokesperson said.

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