The officials, speaking on Saturday on condition of anonymity citing security concerns, said the five were arrested by a Syrian naval force after being seen heading in two boats towards the Syrian island of Arwad.

The five were identified as Munzir Khabbaz, Mohammed Sankari, Abd Allah al-Fahel, Mustafa Assaferi and Khaled Nassif and they are being investigated by Syrian authorities, the Lebanese officials said.

Syrian officials were not immediately available for comment.

Lebanon's outgoing public works and transportation minister, Adel Hamieh, spoke by phone with his Syrian counterpart, Makram Obeid, who promised to try and secure the release of the five.

Obeid urged Lebanese fishermen not to enter Syria's territorial waters, according to a report carried by Lebanon's official National News Agency.

Condemnation


Salem Daknash, head of the Lebanese Fishermen Union in the northern city of Tripoli, condemned the arrests and called for the fishermen's release.

The captures come against the backdrop of a border crisis between the two neighbouring countries.

Lebanese transit truck drivers have been complaining for nearly three weeks of tough measures imposed by Syrian customs officials on the northern Abboudieh-Dabboussieh crossing and the eastern Masnaa crossing.

Many in Lebanon have speculated that the Syrian measures were a retaliatory gesture following the forced April withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.