Thousands of Lebanese head north

Civilians take advantage of 48-hour lull in IAF airstrikes to head north.

July 31, 2006 13:52
1 minute read.


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Thousands of civilians trapped in south Lebanon's war zone for three weeks made an exodus for the north Monday, taking advantage of Israel's 48-hour pause in airstrikes to flee. IDF artillery, not covered under the air halt, continued to pound southern Lebanon. A Lebanese solider outside the southern port of Tyre was killed, security official said. In many border areas, Israeli pilotless aircraft were heard buzzing - though it was not clear whether they were over Lebanese territory. Hours after Israel called the pause, few southerners took to the roads, likely wary over whether the news was true. But soon they saw their chance to run. By early afternoon, the roads from villages into the port city of Tyre, then from Tyre heading north along the coast were packed with pick-up trucks and cars carrying refugees. The United Nations also began sending relief supplies to Kana and to the coastal city of Tyre. However, UN officials added that convoys elsewhere in Lebanon are suspended because of the fragile security situation. The two aid shipments left Beirut on Monday morning, said Christiane Berthiaume, Geneva-based spokeswoman for the World Food Program, which is coordinating convoys for the United Nations. The WFP, however, was forced to cancel a planned convoy to Marjayoun in southern Lebanon, because the agency had not received clearance from the Israeli Defense Forces to drive along the planned route, said Berthiaume. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees canceled one of three aid convoys carrying tents and essential supplies from the Syrian capital to Beirut "due to the general security situation," said UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis. Not all were leaving, particularly in Qana. Hassan Faraj shut down his grocery store, piled his wife and child into a van and headed north towards the mountains, where his mother lives - but he was planning to return. "My mother is very unwell, I must go and see her. If my wife wants to stay there for the sake of the boy, I will come back tomorrow," he said. With many of the main roads too shattered for use, cars took to dirt side roads, still waving white flags out their windows or covering the vehicles roofs with white sheets. On a long stretch of dirt road north of Tyre, cars were piled up in a traffic jam. As of midmorning Monday, there had been no Hizbullah attacks on northern Israel reported since Israel began the suspension.

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