M A I N   N E W S

Exodus from Lebanon begins
3 Indians wounded in air strike; 4 naval warships near Beirut
Tribune News Service & UNI

Beirut/New Delhi, July 19
Three Indian nationals were wounded in an air strike on a glass factory in the eastern Bekaa Valley in Lebanon even as the Indian Government prepared to evacuate another 1000 people from the war zone and deployed four ships to bring them back home.

Earlier, Reuters said three Indian workers were among those killed in fresh casualties in the battle-scarred nation.

Already 49 persons were evacuated on July 17.

A Sri Lankan national and a Sudanese were also among the 55 civilians killed in Israeli air raids today, the ‘Daily Star’ newspaper of Lebanon said.

Streams of Lebanese were fleeing their homes to find safe havens and thousands of foreigners, mainly Westerners, were being evacuated by sea to the neighbouring Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

Earlier, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said that the government was trying to confirm the reports that three Indians had gone missing and one was wounded in an Israeli air strike on a glass factory at Satura in Eastern Bekaa valley.

“We have information that a glass factory was hit after which three Indians went missing and one was wounded,” the Minister said.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna also said there were reports of three Indians having gone missing. However, the reports could not be confirmed, he said.

‘The Daily Star’ newspaper of Lebanon said at least 55 civilians were killed and scores wounded in Israeli raids across Lebanon today. These included a Sri Lankan and a Sudanese national who were killed at Nabatiyeh in Southern Lebanon.

More than 300 persons, mostly civilians, have been killed and hundreds wounded during the past eight days of Israeli military action.

Mr Ahamed said earlier that the Indian embassy in Tel Aviv was making arrangements to evacuate between 1000 and 2000 Indians, half of them students, from the Northern part of Israel and bring them to safer areas of the South.

The External Affairs Ministry spokesman said if the number of the people wanting to be evacuated from Lebanon was more than 1000, they would be taken to Larnaca in Cyprus from where they would be airlifted to India.

He said India had also received requests from Nepal and Sri Lanka to evacuate their nationals. If the ships have any space left, they too would be accommodated, he said in reply to a question.

Mr Sarna said the situation was evolving very fast in the region and there was considerable congestion as a result of the build-up in the seas.

Meanwhile, four Indian warships today reached outskirts of Beirut to evacuate about one thousand Indians trapped in the war zone of Lebanon. However it would not be until tomorrow morning when the ships would be given berthing facilities in Beirut harbour.

The Ministry of External Affairs said the ships were yet to be given berthing facilities because of the fluid situation in the region.

There are 12,000 Indians in Lebanon and to evacuate them all, if all were interested to be evacuated, the “Operation Sukoon” would take more than a week to complete the evacuation, Indian Navy’s spokesman Vinay Garg said. He said the first batch of 1000 Indians was ready and waiting to board the ships and would be taken to Larcana in Cyprus, where they would be given protection. Larcana is at a distance of 120 nautical miles from Lebanon, which is covered in six to eight hours.

All four vessels are warships in full combat gear. These comprise a missile destroyer, two guided missile frigates and a fleet tanker. The last one is an auxiliary ship, which carries oil for mid-sea refueling.

The Indian Navy normally does not take passengers aboard its warships in such large numbers, but since it is a war-like situation in Lebanon, the Indian Navy has agreed to the gesture.

India is also in touch with Israel to see what assistance they can provide. 





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