US Marines have returned to Lebanon for the first time in nearly 23 years. A token force landed north of Beirut to evacuate Americans stranded by the Israeli bombardment. It was 1984 when US forces withdrew – months after a Shi’ite Muslim suicide bomber destroyed a barracks, killing 241 American service personnel.
Helped by Lebanese soldiers, Marines sloshed through waves to carry women and children to the landing craft. They were the first of up to 6,000 Americans Washington says it can evacuate by Friday. There were desperate scenes as not all those who wanted to go were able to leave today.
People climbed fences in a bid to get to the boats. There were desperate stories too – like that of a woman panic stricken because she does not know what has happened to her husband and children.
Safely back on home soil, a third group of Russians has arrived in Moscow. Flown in from Syria, they too spoke about being caught up in the Israeli airstrikes.
“It was so frightening,” said one man.
“A bomb exploded just next to my house. I thought we would die.”
Anxious relatives are just happy their loved ones are safe.
But many evacuees express the same fears and concerns for those they have been forced to leave behind.
Nadya, 9, has been separated from her father, a military surgeon.
“Daddy could not go himself. He sent me here. He found a woman to accompany me,” she said.
More evacuees, meanwhile, are pouring into Cyprus, prompting a warning from the island’s foreign minister that it is running out of room to accommodate them all.