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LARNACA, Cyprus — Over the weekend, the U.S. Air Force ramped up its number of military airlifts from Cyprus to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to move American evacuees coming out of Lebanon one step closer to home.

Four of the C-17 Globemaster 3 flights took off Saturday from airports in Cyprus with an average of about 100 passengers each on board, with four more scheduled Sunday, said Maj. Don Langley, from the military’s joint public affairs office in Cyprus.

The C-17s were sent from a downrange location, where they are part of 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, to take part in the evacuation effort, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe said. They are originally from the 17th Airlift Squadron based at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina.

Combined with chartered commercial planes, the C-17 flights help complete the air bridge from Cyprus to points in Europe and the U.S. to funnel Americans out of the region. At least eight flights out of Cyprus with American passengers were scheduled Sunday, with an unspecified number to continue Monday, depending on the schedule, Langley said.

The flights are part of the effort to ease the burden on Cyprus of thousands of American and other evacuees leaving Lebanon as fighting between Israel and Hezbollah continued over the weekend.

Along with the increased movement of U.S. evacuees through local airports, a second transit point in Turkey was also opened to process escapees leaving the country.

As of Sunday, no more evacuations to Turkey had been planned, a Pentagon official said.

By Sunday, more than 10,000 U.S. citizens had been evacuted from Lebanon, including 1,400 who were taken by boat to Turkey, the Pentagon official said.

The official also said that the number of Americans evacuated from Lebanon plunged from Saturday to Sunday.

On Sunday, 1,185 Americans had been taken out of Lebanon by air and sea within the last 24 hours, compared with 3,994 in the previous 24 hours, the official said.

Asked about the drop in evacuees, the official deferred comment to the task force in Cyprus coordinating the evacuation, but said the number of Americans who want to leave Lebanon has dropped off.

Jeff Schogol reported from Washington, D.C.


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