Thousands of foreigners prepare to leave Beirut
19 July 2006, BEIRUT - Germans, Australians, Americans and Canadians gathered Wednesday near Beirut's port in preparation for departure out of Lebanon. It was the third day of evacuation of foreigners from Lebanon due to the Israeli offensive on the country which started last Wednesday after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers.
19 July 2006
BEIRUT - Germans, Australians, Americans and Canadians gathered Wednesday near Beirut's port in preparation for departure out of Lebanon.
It was the third day of evacuation of foreigners from Lebanon due to the Israeli offensive on the country which started last Wednesday after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers.
According to harbour officials, many more vessels are expected to arrive to evacuate foreign nationals from Beirut.
A Lebanese man with a German passport said the embassy is preparing for the departure of Germans out Beirut on one of the ships coming in on Wednesday.
"There is panic ... everybody who can leave wants to leave this hell," Lebanese-German national Ali Sabeh told DPA.
A convoy of buses with 500 German nationals and their closest relatives left Beirut for Syria on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said in Berlin.
They were among 3,000 who gathered at a conference hall in Lebanese capital which the German embassy arranged as an assembly point for people fleeing the Israeli bombardments.
A foreign ministry spokesman said other arrangements were being made to evacuate those who did not find places on the buses.
Meanwhile, a first batch of 320 German evacuees returned home Tuesday on a flight from the Syrian capital of Damascus.
They spoke of chaotic conditions at the border with Syria where they had to wait eight hours before continuing their journey by road to Damascus for their flight to Germany.
The German Ambassador in Damascus Volkmar Wenzel told DPA that expectations were high that "many, many more" would arrive Wednesday night.
"We have plans for 2,000 people. We will try to fly them out of Damascus or from other airports," Wenzel said.
Volkmar said those who could not fly immediately out of Damascus would be accommodated, adding that the Syrian authorities had promised to help in getting German citizens across the borders.
"We are using all possibilities, charter and military flights, to take them back home," Wenzel said.
The German Government had charted several aircraft to pick up more evacuees from Syria, according to the foreign ministry.
Around 2,000 German citizens have been trapped in Lebanon since Israel launched its military offensive.
According to the French Foreign Ministry, some 20,000 French nationals, including 5,000 tourists, are currently in Lebanon, adding that some 300 French nationals and other foreigners were set to leave Beirut for Cyprus aboard the French frigate Jean de Vienne.
Three other French ships were expected to pick up evacuees from the Lebanese capital by Sunday.
French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday demanded the opening of "humanitarian corridors" in strife-torn Lebanon.
These corridors would permit the movement of refugees within Lebanon, as well as enable foreigners currently in the country to be evacuated to Cyprus, Chirac told journalists in Paris after a meeting of his cabinet on the Mideast crisis.
A Canadian embassy employee said that all those of the some 40,000 Canadians who live in Lebanon wishing to leave would have left the country by Friday.
Port authorities said that one US-registered ship had arrived to evacuate 750 US citizens and that they were expecting many more ships from other countries.
The British Foreign Office said that by Wednesday morning, a British vessel had taken 200 British citizens to Cyprus.
Britain's Ambassador to Cyprus Peter Millet rejected criticism that the evacuation was progressing too slowly. "We did not want to rush bringing out British citizens until we knew we could do it safely. We have got far more people in Lebanon than many other countries," he told Britain's BBC news network.
The BBC reported that the remaining 5,000 British citizens in Lebanon would leave by sea in the coming days.
Beirut's international airport can no longer be used after the Israelis attacked it. The main road between Beirut and the Syrian border has also been bombed in many places.
Subject: German news