By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2006 – As fighting between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group continues, U.S. servicemembers continue to evacuate Americans trapped in Lebanon, Defense Department officials report. Over the weekend, U.S. helicopters from the Navy's Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group evacuated 37 American citizens from the U.S. embassy compound in Lebanon's capital, Beirut. The choppers took the evacuees to Cyprus.
This brings the total number evacuated to 14,793. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Iwo Jima group stands ready to evacuate any other Americans who wish to leave the war-torn country. Fuel to run power plants and generators in Beirut is scarce. U.S. naval vessels will escort two fuel tankers from Cyprus to Lebanon to help get needed supplies into the city to provide power for hospitals, water pumps and water plants.
About 5,700 U.S. military personnel are providing support to the evacuation and humanitarian activities in Lebanon, DoD officials said. Most are aboard the Iwo Jima group, but many are in Cyprus and a few in the embassy in Beirut.