Published January 13, 2015
As many as 100 Americans along with people from other countries still seeking evacuation from south Lebanon likely will leave the country today, Brig. General Carl Jensen told FOXNews Wednesday.
"These American citizens and also a fairly large number of Australian citizens, and I'm sure many other nationalities, have had a harrowing drive from southeast Lebanon to the port city of Tyre, and hopefully we'll get them out on a commercial vehicle later this evening," Jensen said.
The U.S. embassy in Beirut said it believes this is likely the last significant batch of Americans seeking to evacuate.
The U.S. sent a cruiseliner to Beirut on Wednesday to pick up the last scheduled boatload of Americans evacuating Lebanon after two weeks of Israeli airstrikes.
A Canadian ship also was due in Tyre in southern Lebanon to evacuate more foreigners fleeing the violence, while the Foreign Office in London said there would be no further evacuations by Britain.
Israeli airstrikes and sporadic incursions by ground troops have made it unsafe to travel in large areas of Lebanon, especially the south where fighting has been most intense. The area around Tyre has been especially hard-hit in Israel's military offensive.
"I got in a taxi (to Beirut), and he flew," said Mike Katieib, 32, a Lebanese-American hotel worker from Atlanta, Georgia, who was vacationing in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon and made it to Cyprus late Tuesday on a ship. "The roads are scary; there is no safety on roads."
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.
"People just jumped into the car, some even without shoes and some people just seemed to come out of the walls. We didn't know where anyone was before; everyone was just trying to stay alive," he said.
Tehfi said many U.S. citizens were still trapped in Yaroun, 30 kilometers (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."
Some 35,000 with foreign passports, including many with injuries, have been evacuated from Lebanon through Cyprus since fighting broke out between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas on July 12, the Cypriot government said. Most have been from European countries, the United States and Canada.
On Wednesday, officials in Cyprus' ports of Larnaca and Limassol said things had slowed down considerably, and they knew only of three ships arriving in the next 24 hours, including the cruiseliner Orient Queen — the last boat scheduled by the Americans.
Cyprus pleaded Tuesday for EU help in coping with the evacuees, and urged European nations to open their borders to non-European refugees from Lebanon if and when they started coming.
Late last week, some countries began taking evacuees to Turkey to help lighten the load on Cyprus. Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that about 7,000 foreigners from France, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Moldova, Germany, Canada, United States, Australia, Lebanon and other countries had arrived over several days, mostly by ferry.
In other developments:
— Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said 44 Pakistanis were to arrive in Pakistan on Wednesday and Thursday after being evacuated from Lebanon, while arrangements were under way to bring back the remaining 47, who were staying at Pakistan International School in Damascus, Syria.
— Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht said its embassy had organized overland convoys for 635 people, taking them to Israel or Syria. A last group of 90 people was flown to Belgium after reaching northern Syria on Tuesday. Another 516 took boats to Cyprus. Eighty people who made it to Damascus themselves also have been flown back to Belgium.