Ship to usher Americans from south Lebanon
July 27, 2006
ARLINGTON, VA. — About 210 Americans were expected to leave southern Lebanon on Wednesday aboard a Canadian ship, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
The ship Princess Marissa was expected to leave the city of Tyre with about 300 Americans and Australians, including 110 Americans who had to drive to the city from elsewhere in southern Lebanon, Whitman said.
It is unknown how many Americans are in south Lebanon, but officials believe the evacuation from Tyre will take out most U.S. citizens there who want to leave the country, said Marine Brig. Gen. Carl Jensen, who is in charge of the task force coordinating evacuation and relief efforts.
“We hope this will be, if not all, then certainly the lion’s share of those who wish to leave, but we may never know for sure,” Jensen told reporters Wednesday.
U.S. officials said they were evaluating ways to rescue any remaining Americans but would not comment on the nature of their plans.
In Tyre, Ali Abbas Tehfi, a Lebanese-American from Los Angeles, sat with his family waiting for a boat to Cyprus — and eventually home. He said people swarmed the cars when they arrived to take evacuees out of Tyre.
Tehfi said many U.S. citizens were still trapped in Yaroun, 20 miles from Tyre. “But I don’t know who is alive and who is dead. If you weren’t in the main area when the cars came, you were left behind.”
As of Wednesday, about 14,000 Americans had been evacuated from Lebanon, officials said.
The number of Americans showing up at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to be evacuated has fallen from “thousands and thousands a day down to hundreds,” Jensen said.
Officials have said efforts in Lebanon are shifting from evacuation to relief efforts.
So far, the 2,200 sailors and Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit now on board the USS Iwo Jima have not been tasked with a mission
“If we are asked to provide logistics support initially for the USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) effort, it’s not inconceivable — in fact probable — that of course they will move some of that with helicopters, and as you know the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit has quite a number of transport helicopters that could certainly be pressed in the fight to do that,” he said.
Jensen also said it is unlikely that Marines would go ashore as part of relief efforts.
While some Marines have helped unload shipments of relief supplies, the Marines remain focused on evacuation efforts, said 24th MEU spokesman Capt. David Nevers in A Tuesday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.