Egypt Releases Israeli Crew after Brief Detention

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Four Israelis guards and four crew members sailed back to the port city of Eilat Thursday after a short detention by Egyptian naval forces.

The men, employed by a private Israeli security firm, were arrested Wednesday on board a yacht taking them back to Eilat after a stint aboard a cargo ship.

When an Egyptian coast guard ship approached the yacht, the men threw their weapons overboard, arousing suspicion. The men were reportedly escorted to Sharm el-Sheikh for questioning.

The firm provides security guards for Israeli cargo ships that have to sail along the African coast, especially near Somalia where pirates have been a problem.

Yachts transport the guards from Israel's southernmost port of Eilat to the port near the Straits of Tiran where they board the freighters.

Yacht owner Shimon Mashiach said the "arrest" was "just a routine check," YNet news reported.

"We arrived in Egypt and they invited us for dinner and treated us beautifully," Mashiach said.

"We were not under arrest. It was just a routine check. The Egyptians are our friends. We're in good relations," he said.

"The guards were given dinner and were pampered. There was no investigation," he said.

Israel's Foreign Ministry also vouched for the men with Egyptian authorities, saying they were not involved in any clandestine criminal activity.

Meanwhile, Egypt has not released Ilan Grapel, 27, an Israeli with dual American citizenship, who was arrested in Cairo in June on suspicion of espionage.

Egyptian officials accused him of being a member of the Mossad, Israel's secret service.

Egypt extended his detention in mid-July, saying they needed more time to investigate, though he has not been indicted. U.S. and Israeli officials have been trying to secure his release.

Grapel, an Emory law student, was doing a summer internship in Egypt for a legal aid group that helps African refugees.

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