By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2006 – As the ceasefire in Lebanon took effect, the U.S. military evacuated 21 more Americans from Beirut in recent days, DoD spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. This brings the total of Americans evacuated from Lebanon to 14,876 since the conflict between Israel and the terror group Hezbollah began July 16.
U.S. Navy ships remain off the coast of Lebanon to accommodate more evacuations, if needed. "But there are only trickles of people requesting to be departed," Whitman said. Seven vessels still are committed to the operation, as is the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The naval vessel Swift is still available to deliver humanitarian supplies. The destroyers USS Cole and USS Barry are available for escort duties, if required. Aviation assets, including CH-53 Sea Stallion and CH-46 Chinook helicopters, are available to fly evacuees to Cyprus, if needed.
The other vessels still in the area are: the USS Iwo Jima, the USS Trenton, the USS Nashville and the USS Whidbey Island. All told, about 6,000 American servicemembers are participating in the operation.
U.S. ships are standing by in case humanitarian aid is needed. The United Nations is delivering aid that had been bottled up in Beirut by the fighting, Whitman said. "With respect to supplies, there is not a current shipment of humanitarian assistance that the U.S. military is looking at bringing in," he said. "As we go into the future, there will be opportunities for ship and eventually air to be able to deliver those types of things from other countries, commercially."