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Israel has refused a request for a short cease-fire or a safe corridor in Lebanon to allow the evacuation of foreign nationals, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Tuesday.
"The Israelis have so far said that this was a war zone, that they wouldn't agree to our requests," Downer said.
Up to 5,000 Australians have registered with the Australian Embassy in Lebanon, and about 25,000 dual Australian-Lebanese citizens are believed to be living there, Australian media have reported.
Four buses carrying 90 to 100 Australian citizens left Beirut on Tuesday for Syria, Downer said, adding that the Australian government hopes to charter a ship for 300 to 600 more evacuees Wednesday.
"We have asked the Israelis whether it would be possible for there to be a short cease-fire in order to enable our nationals and other foreign nationals to get out of southern Lebanon," Downer said. "We have also put it to them that it would be helpful if there were to be some sort of a safe corridor that these people could move out."
Britain has agreed to allow some Australians to board one of its warships dispatched to evacuate Britons from Lebanon.