At least 46 migrants were killed when their boat sank off Tunisia’s coast and 67 others were rescued by the coast guard, the Defense Ministry said Sunday. It was one of the worst migrant boat accidents in recent years.
The rescue operation east of the city of Sfax was ongoing, the ministry said. The migrants were of Tunisian and other nationalities.
Human traffickers increasingly use Tunisia as a launchpad for migrants heading to Europe as Libya’s coast guard, aided by armed groups, has tightened controls.
Security officials said the boat was packed with about 180 migrants, including 80 from other African countries. A survivor said the captain, to avoid arrest, abandoned the boat after it started sinking.
Separately, nine people, including six children, died Sunday after a speedboat carrying 15 refugees sank off the coast of Turkey’s southern province of Antalya, the Turkish coast guard said.
Reducing the flow of migrants into Italy is one of the aims of the anti-immigrant League party in Italy and its leader, Matteo Salvini, the new Italian interior minister. Sicily is about 200 miles from Tunisia’s northern coast.
As of May 30, 32,080 people have reached Europe by sea this year, the International Organization for Migration said on its website. Some 660 have died in the attempt, it said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out debt relief for Italy, saying in a newspaper interview published Sunday that the principle of solidarity among euro-zone member states should not turn the single currency bloc into a debt-sharing union.
In the interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Merkel also embraced some of French President Emmanuel Macron’s ideas for more solidarity in the euro zone and the broader European Union.
She said that while cohesion within the bloc was important, “solidarity among euro partners should never lead to a debt union, rather it must be about helping others to help themselves.”
Merkel made the remarks when asked about a media report that Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League had planned to ask the European Central Bank to forgive $296 billion of Italian debt.
An Italian governing coalition of two parties generally seen as hostile to the euro took power Friday, calming markets fearful of a new election that might have effectively become a referendum on staying in the single currency.
“I will approach the new Italian government openly and work with it, instead of speculating about its intentions,” Merkel said in the interview.
Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza after rocket fire resumes: The Israeli military struck Hamas militant sites in Gaza early Sunday in response to the resumption of rocket fire toward Israel, which threatened to unravel an informal cease-fire that had held since a flare-up of violence last week. Israel has also been battling fires caused by kites rigged with incendiary devices, or attached to burning rags, launched from Gaza that have damaged forests and burned southern agricultural fields. The military said it hit 15 Hamas targets, including military compounds, munition factories and naval forces.
U.S. leads NATO drill: A major U.S.-led military exercise with 18,000 soldiers from 19 primarily NATO countries kicked off on the alliance's eastern flank. Troops maneuvered in Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. The U.S. Army Europe said the Saber Strike 18 drill, which runs until June 15, is "a demonstration of the commitment and solidarity of the Alliance" at a time when Russia's military maneuvers are increasingly worrying nearby NATO members. It stressed, however, that Saber Strike "is not a provocation of Russia."
Anti-immigrant party tops Slovenian vote: A right-wing opposition party led by a former Slovenian prime minister won the most votes in Slovenia's parliamentary election, but not enough to form a government on its own, an exit poll suggested. The poll said that Janez Jansa's Slovenian Democratic Party received 24.4 percent of the vote and the second-place party, the List of Marjan Sarec, got 12.6 percent. If no party secured a majority in Slovenia's 90-member parliament, the likely next step is negotiations to form a coalition government.
— From news services