From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: Palestine | International
More than 100,000 people flee Lebanon through Syria
by Haaretz (reposted)
Monday Jul 17th, 2006 6:36 PM
More than 100,000 people have crossed into Syria from Lebanon over the past five days to escape Israeli attacks, Syrian authorities said on Monday.
Official data obtained by Reuters showed that at least 24,000 Lebanese entered Syria through four crossing points since Thursday, when Israeli Air Force strikes in response to the abduction of two soldiers by Hizbollah fighters intensified.

At least 27,000 Arabs, mostly Gulf tourists, also left, together with more than 6,500 foreigners and 19,000 Syrians.

Syrian border posts registered another 28,000 people leaving Lebanon, but their nationalities were not yet recorded.

Meanwhile, United Nations peacekeeping force in South Lebanon said on Monday it was unable to supply food and water to its troops or deliver humanitarian aid to civilians because Israel would not guarantee their safe passage.

The IDF have not responded to the UN's repeated requests to secure the safe transport of convoys carrying supplies to its positions, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said in a statement.

South Lebanon, which borders Israel, has been worst-hit in the Israel Defense Forces' six-day-old offensive against Hezbollah after the guerrilla group's capture of two IDF soldiers in a cross-border attack.

by ALJ
Monday Jul 17th, 2006 6:37 PM
Thousands of foreigners were fleeing Lebanon on Monday to escape Israeli air strikes which have pounded the country for six days, some travelling by road to Syria, others waiting for places on US and European ships.

Syrian authorities said more than 100,000 people, three-quarters of them foreigners, had crossed into Syria from Lebanon over the past five days to reach safety after Beirut airport was bombed and forced to close.

The United States flew out more than 40 citizens by helicopter and prepared to evacuate thousands more by ship. An Italian navy ship carrying 366 Europeans was the first vessel from Lebanon to reach the nearby Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

"I am glad to be out, but, on the other hand, I am so sad at what is being done to Lebanon," said Mona Demachkieh, 27, originally from Milan.

As Europeans gathered near their embassies in Beirut, the European Union urged Israel to guarantee the safety of tens of thousands of EU citizens in Lebanon.

"Several times, I have been in touch with the Israeli minister and urged them to give clear guarantees these people are not endangered," Erkki Tuomioja, the Finnish foreign minister, whose country holds the EU presidency, told reporters.

French move

France dispatched a chartered ferry to Beirut on Monday to pick up several hundred French nationals and take them to Cyprus. The ferry, guarded by a French frigate, was due to make at least three trips to Beirut this week.

A former French mandate, Lebanon is home to 17,000 French residents. Up to 5,000 French tourists are visiting the country.

France has mobilised some 800 troops to help with the evacuation and has seven helicopters in the area on standby.

"If things get complicated, we will go and find the French people where they are," Jean-Francois Bureau, the defence ministry spokesman, said in Paris.

Seventeen-year-old French national Fouad Jawad, waiting at the French embassy, cried at the sound of Israeli missiles bombing Hezbollah's stronghold in a Beirut suburb to the south.

"Our family is still there, we are afraid that something happened to them. They have not been answering their phones," said Jawad, a student.

"No one cares"

Mohammed Koubaissi, 40, a businessman with a French passport, said: "No one cares about Arab lives. Having a European nationality is like a pass from hell to heaven."

The United States flew 43 more US citizens out of Lebanon on Monday and hired a commercial cruise ship to help with the possible evacuation of thousands more, US officials said. The Pentagon said a naval destroyer would escort the cruise ship.

Sean McCormack, the US State Department spokesman, said the message to US citizens trapped in the conflict was: "Make sure your bags are ready to go. We are ... operating on a scale of potentially thousands of people who want to leave."

A first batch of 21 Americans was evacuated on Sunday as a US military team arrived to plan bigger evacuations.

The US State Department said there were about 25,000 Americans in Lebanon, but only about 8,000 had registered with the embassy as living in the country or travelling there.