By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, July 24, 2006 – As demand for evacuation drops, Defense Department units will deliver more humanitarian assistance to beleaguered Lebanon, a senior defense official said today. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said DoD has evacuated 11,913 American citizens from Lebanon since the operation began July 16. He said officials anticipate evacuating another 1,200 from Lebanon today, but that demand for evacuation seems to have peaked.
The operation is not over, Whitman said, "but we are coming close to completing the assisted departure operations. We are going to be shifting our emphasis to a humanitarian effort." He said two ships -- the Swift and the Vittoria M -- will deliver humanitarian relief supplies. U.N. officials said between 400,000 and 600,000 Lebanese are internally displaced due to the fighting between the terror group Hezbollah and Israeli force.
The U.S. Agency for International Development will provide medical kits, blankets and other humanitarian aid to non-governmental organizations, who will then distribute supplies to those who need them. The medical kits are large enough to provide supplies for 10,000 people for three months, Whitman said. DoD has airlifted supplies to Cyprus, and officials expect this operation to begin in the next few days. Whitman said a few U.S. servicemembers will be on hand when the supplies land, but that will probably be the extent of U.S. military involvement.
In the last 24 hours, the USS Trenton took 1,612 evacuees to Turkey, the USS Nashville took 524 to Cyprus, and military helicopters airlifted 30 "special needs" citizens to Cyrus for a total of 2,166. Navy amphibious vessels are not likely to evacuate any more people from the country, Whitman said.
DoD also helped move evacuees out of Cyprus. There have been four contract flights and 12 military flights so far. In the last 24 hours, DoD moved 590 evacuees from Cyprus, and officials expect to move slightly less than 3,000 people, Whitman said.