M A I N   N E W S

Ships ready to evacuate Indians from Lebanon

New Delhi, July 18
Four Indian Navy ships are standing by off the Lebanese coast to aid in the possible evacuation of Indian nationals caught in the crossfire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas.

The four vessels were on an overseas deployment to eastern Mediterranean ports and were on their way home when the Lebanese crisis erupted, Indian Navy spokesman Capt Vinay Garg said here today.

“They were about to enter the Suez Canal when they were ordered to turn around and head for Lebanon,” Garg said.

The ships, guided missile destroyer INS Mumbai, guided missile frigates INS Brahmaputra and INS Betwa and fleet tanker INS Shakti are currently in international waters off the Lebanese coast and can be on station within a few hours, the spokesman said.

The Indian External Affairs Ministry is working out the modalities of the proposed evacuation with the Israeli authorities.

Forty-nine Indians were yesterday moved out of Lebanese capital and driven to Damascus. Israeli cooperation would be needed role as Tel Aviv has effectively blockaded all Lebanese ports since the current crisis erupted.

“In the eventuality of a situation demanding their evacuation, the Indian government will take all possible steps to move (those of its 12,000 nationals who wish to leave) to safety,” Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told reporters here.

Israel has been targeting Hezbollah guerrillas since last Wednesday after two of its soldiers were kidnapped and eight killed, raining bombs on Beirut and parts of south Lebanon. — IANS




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