Beirut, July 19 (Reuters): The US and other nations were plucking their citizens from Lebanon today in an air- and seaborne exodus of foreigners fleeing Israeli air raids.
“It’s very bad, very sad, I can’t believe what’s happening,” said a tearful Lubna Jaber, an Australian who had come to visit relatives in Lebanon. She was waiting in downtown Beirut with about 350 compatriots hoping to board a ferry to Turkey.
“Have you seen the pictures of the children who were killed' The world should see them, especially the Americans who support Israel,” said the 28-year-old, holding her six-year-old son.
Two explosions from an Israeli air strike echoed over the city as families clustered at the assembly point. Nine military ships, including a helicopter carrier and a dock landing ship, and thousands of Marines and sailors were involved in the US operation, US officials said.
More than 2,400 Americans were to be evacuated by air and sea today out of a total of 8,000 to be brought out.
“The night before last I don’t think anyone slept in Beirut. We stayed in a basement until 4 in the morning,” said Amal Kazzaz, 63, one of about 50 Americans ferried by US Marine helicopters earlier from Beirut to Larnaca airport in Cyprus.
“In some places there is nothing, the people don’t have homes or anywhere to go,” she said. “They lost everything.”
Thousands of Lebanese, as well as foreigners, have braved the road to Syria to flee an Israeli bombardment that has killed 292 people in eight days, all but 27 of them civilians.
Lebanon’s tourist season was approaching its height when the conflict erupted, stranding thousands of surprised foreigners.
“It’s my first time in Lebanon and probably the last,” said Australian property developer Victor Kheir, 29. “I came to visit relatives, but an hour after I landed they bombed the airport.”
Australia's plan to evacuate over 300 people on a Turkish ship was thrown into disarray when the firm that owns the ferry said it had been double-booked, an Australian official said.