Marines and sailors with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit have left the waters off Lebanon and returned to the Red Sea after helping evacuate Americans from Lebanon, said 24th MEU spokesman Capt. David Nevers.

A few hundred sailors and Marines with the 24th MEU remain in the Mediterranean, but they will be joining the rest of the MEU shortly, Nevers said in a Sunday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

As of Sunday, the USS Cole and USS Whidbey Island were still in the Mediterranean, said a spokesman for the USS Iwo Jima.

In July, the 24th MEU and USS Iwo Jima Strike Group were dispatched from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean to take part in evacuation efforts after fighting broke out between Israel and the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

All told, more than 14,000 Americans were eventually taken out of Lebanon, including some who were evacuated to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, according to the Defense Department.

On Thursday, Marine Gen. James L. Jones Jr., supreme allied commander, Europe, announced the European Command would take charge of the mission in Lebanon at the end of the month.

The 24th MEU returned to the Red Sea on Sunday after clearing the Suez Canal, Nevers said.

“As for our future, barring orders elsewhere, we have a few exercises planned over the next couple of months,” he said. Scheduled stops include the Horn of Africa, Kuwait and Pakistan. As always, we remain on call to respond to any crisis or to support ongoing operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

The efforts marked the third trip to Lebanon for the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, which was the Battalion Landing Team for the U.S. peacekeeping mission in 1983 when a Hezbollah suicide bomber blew up a Marine barracks, killing 241 servicemembers.

The unit was also sent to Lebanon in 1958 to quell unrest.

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