The U.S. military continues to assist the State Department with the sea and air departure of U.S. citizens wishing to leave Lebanon.
Following are highlights of a press briefing this afternoon at the State Department with U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michael D. Barbero and Assistant Secretary of State Maura Harty.
The situation in Lebanon remains fluid and volatile. The goal of the U.S. government continues to be to safely, securely and efficiently transport Americans out of harm’s way.
To date there have been approximately 3,850 assisted departures of U.S. citizens from Lebanon. The U.S. embassy in Damascus has confirmed another 400 citizens have made it out by land to Syria.
More than 2,400 citizens have been transported in the last 24 hours, including 1,000 aboard the USS Nashville, which departed Lebanon today for the eight-hour voyage to Cyprus.
The first charter flight arrived today at BWI Airport in Baltimore with 138 people. Four flights total have left; they are all going at capacity. As many as six flights are planned for Friday, they will land in Baltimore and Philadelphia.
An embassy-assisted bus convoy moved 341 people out of harm’s way from southern Lebanon. These people are boarding the Orient Queen for Cyprus.
Operations are ramping up to use the port of Mersin, Turkey, as an overflow center. Citizens will be bused to Incirlik Air Base for travel to the United States.
The chartered vessel the Orient Queen continues to bring passengers from the port city of Beirut to Cyprus.
In addition to the USS Nashville, U.S. Navy assets in the area include the guided missile destroyers the USS Gonzalez and the USS Barry, and the USS Mount Whitney, a command and control ship.
Four more U.S. Navy ships are expected in the area over the coming days; most will arrive in the next 24 hours.
The passenger ship Ramah is expected to start carrying passengers on Friday. The Ramah is a Panamanian flag ship with a capacity of 1,400.
The high-speed vessel Vittoria should begin moving passengers on Saturday. It is an Italian flag ship with a capacity of 330.
To support operations in Lebanon, more than 250 U.S. military personnel are in Akrotiri and Larnaca on Cyprus providing command and control, security, medical support, and support to helicopter and C-130 aircraft operations.
More than 60 military personnel are at the U.S. embassy in Beirut providing command and control, logistics planning and a small security detachment.
The U.S. military will continue to support the ambassador and the on-scene commander through the completion of the operation.