Tripoli residents in contact with the survivors say a woman and child – both Syrians – were killed.

Two migrants and refugees have died and 232 others have been rescued after the boat they were traveling in capsized off the coast of Lebanon, the Lebanese military said.

Three naval vessels and a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) boat took part in a rescue operation near Selata, north of the Lebanese capital Beirut, the military said.

According to reports from the northern city of Tripoli – Lebanon’s second largest and poorest – there were Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian men, women and children on the boat leaving northern Lebanon after midnight on Friday.

Tripoli residents in contact with survivors said the dead included a Syrian woman and a Syrian child.

Earlier, the army said a naval patrol was sent to rescue the ship full of people trying to “illegally leave Lebanese waters”.

On Twitter, UNIFIL confirmed that it was assisting the Lebanese Navy “in search and rescue operations at sea between Beirut and Tripoli where a boat in distress with a large number of people on board was found”.

Dozens of relatives of the rescued poured into Tripoli port to await their return to shore, AFP news agency said.

Lebanon is mired in what the World Bank describes as one of the worst economic crises in modern history. The country is also home to more than a million refugees from the war in Syria.

It was once just a launching pad for foreign migrants and refugees, but almost three years of economic collapse Lebanese citizens have increasingly joined Syrian and Palestinian refugees who are clamoring to leave through dangerous sea routes.

“We can no longer live in this country – or in Syria,” said Younes Jomaa, a Syrian from Idlib and a brother of one of the surviving refugees.

They are among the millions displaced by the war in Syria in more than a decade.

“I planned to go with my brother but couldn’t raise enough money,” Jomaa said, adding that his brother had taken on debt to finance his trip.

About the end of September 100 migrants and refugees died when their boat sank off the Syrian coast after leaving Lebanon, in one of the deadliest episodes.

Migrants and refugees departing from Lebanon head to Europe, with one of the main destinations being Cyprus, just 175 km away.

The UN refugee agency has said that between January and November 2021, at least 1,570 individuals, including 186 Lebanese nationals, have embarked or attempted to embark on illegal sea voyages from Lebanon.

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