A group of Israeli sailing club members out for a leisurely sail on Sunday morning quickly found themselves leading a dramatic rescue operation to save the lives of 11 Syrian and Iraqi refugees whose boat had capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. The Posidon Sailing Club members pulled eight adults and four children – among them tragically a dead baby still cradled in his mother’s arms — out of the water.

The dramatic rescue, first reported by Ynet,  took place near the tourist town of Kas in Turkey, not far from the Greek island, Kastelórizo.

“I’ve been at sea for 40 years and this is the first time something like this happened to me. I heard ‘save me’ from the waters, we stopped the boat and saw a youth with a life jacket. We brought him out of the water and he told us his brother had gone missing and was probably dead,” Shlomo Asban, captain of the Israeli yacht, told Ynet.

The young refugee told his saviors that he was from a town in Syria.

“He spoke Arabic and said he was from Syria. We asked him if he was with other people, and he began to cry and point all over the place,” Gal Baruch, one of the rescuers/sailors from the Ashdod club, told Ynet.

Asban recounted that a few minutes after the stirring rescue, the Israeli sailors noticed others bobbing in the water beside an overturned dinghy. The Ashdod sailing club members pulled them out of the water, including a mother cradling her dead son.

“The mother said she had held her baby son’s body all night,” he told the Hebrew news site.

The refugees were a mixed group from Iraq and Syria. Asban said he and his friends gave them water and let them use their cell phones to call their families.

Baruch said that one of the people rescued was “a man going into diabetic shock. We gave him sweet things to eat and were able to save his life.”

“After we told them that we are Jews from Israel, they kissed us and said ‘thank you,'” Asban related.

Baruch added that the rescue was extremely trying: “It’s not easy to see this kind of situation. After an hour at sea with us, we dropped them off safely and they were transferred to Greek authorities.”

To see the video of the dramatic rescue, click here.

Photo by Gal Baruch
Photo by Gal Baruch