Hundreds of Australian citizens hoping to flee Lebanon were left stranded after a Greek navy ship was forced to sail without them, the foreign minister said Thursday.
It was the latest embarrassment for the Australian government, which has come under increasing criticism for allegedly failing to provide adequate help for thousands of its citizens trapped in Lebanon since the IDF began raining bombs on the country last week.
About 200 Australians were stranded on the docks in Beirut overnight, after the ship that had been enlisted to evacuate them to nearby Cyprus was forced to leave without them. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Israel had set a deadline for the ship's departure, and had refused to guarantee its safety after that time.
"There's a curfew. The Israelis wouldn't extend the curfew. Some Australians, I think it was actually in the end about 45, got onto the Greek ship, but many didn't," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
On Wednesday, the government said it had chartered a Turkish ship to carry its citizens to safety. But officials later found out the vessel had been double-booked, forcing them to scramble for another way to evacuate people who had lined up at the port to leave.