WASHINGTON, July 23, 2006 – Over the past two days, the U.S. military has transported more than 5,000 American citizens out of Lebanon, bringing the total number evacuated to more than 10,000, a Defense official speaking on background said today. A total of 3,994 American citizens left Lebanon on Saturday. Navy and contract ships lifted 1,815 from the embattled country today.
State Department officials in Cyprus said the number of Americans wishing to leave Lebanon may be dropping off. Israel is facing off against the terrorist group Hezbollah. Israeli forces are launching air strikes into Hezbollah strongholds in and around Beirut, and artillery strikes into the south. State Department officials said roughly 25,000 American citizens were in Lebanon when the fighting started July 16.
Yesterday's evacuation saw 40 special-needs citizens taken to Cyrus via helicopters. The USS Whidbey Island transported 792, and the contract carriers Orient Queen and Rahmah took 983 and 933 Americans, respectively, to the island nation in the eastern Mediterranean. DoD also is involved in transporting Americans back to the United States. U.S. Transportation Command is arranging commercial and military aircraft to fly the evacuees. Two military flights transported 199 Americans to McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., yesterday. Chartered commercial flights will take evacuees to Baltimore-Washington International Turrgood Marshall Airport and Philadelphia International Airport.
Officials in Cyprus said the ships will return to the waters off Beirut. Others - the USS Trenton, the USS Nashville and the contract carrier Vittoria M - are evacuating Americans from Lebanon today. Operations will continue as long as Americans wish to leave the country, said State Department officials.