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American college students hole up in Beirut
by reposted
Saturday Jul 15th, 2006 12:00 PM
Joanne Nucho thought she would be spending her summer in a safe Western-style city when she headed off to Beirut, Lebanon, to study Arabic as part of her doctoral program at UCLA. The city is hip and urban, with many comforts of home — there's even a McDonald's across the street from her school, American University in Beirut, and several Starbucks stores nearby.

But suddenly she finds herself huddled in a college dormitory with 40 other Americans, trapped in the middle of an undeclared war and fearing for her life.


"I just want to go home," she added.

Prospects of that aren't good right now. Beirut airport, about 10 miles south of the school, is closed, bombed earlier this week by Israeli warplanes.

by BBC (reposted)
Sunday Jul 16th, 2006 10:50 AM
Lebanon has been bombed for several nights by Israel, in retaliation for the capture of two soldiers by Hezbollah. Two Royal Navy ships have been put on standby for an evacuation of British nationals but while ministers and defence staff are considering a plan, no order for an evacuation has yet been given.

Britons trapped in Lebanon and relatives tell of their anxiety amid Israeli air and artillery attacks.


Andrea Kowalski and her husband were in Lebanon for a friend's wedding and to visit relatives.

"We already knew the news that the Palestinians had taken a soldier. When we heard Hezbollah had taken two soldiers, then we knew something would happen."

She and her husband travelled to the south of the country in the Jezzine area, near the city of Sidon.

"We were there when we heard there had been bombing in south Lebanon, and we started to receive text messages saying there was something happening."

They returned to Beirut on Tuesday. The following day, Israeli warplanes hit Beirut airport, setting fuel tanks ablaze. During Thursday morning, Mrs Kowalski said she heard Israeli jets flying over Beirut.

"We started trying to work out what we'd do.... there was already a lot of movement in the country. A friend of ours was already trying to leave the country when the airport was hit."

They learned Israeli naval ships had started a blockade off Lebanese waters.

A call to the Venezuelan embassy - Mrs Kowalski was born in Venezuela - led to them deciding to drive north into Syria via the port city of Tripoli. At that stage, Tripoli had not been bombed by Israeli planes.

They made their way to the border crossing point at Abboudiye in a rental car. The driver dropped them off about 1km from the border.

"That's where we started seeing thousands of people trying to cross the border, with children and babies, in the terrible heat - we've described it as biblical."

She said she believed many of the people trying to cross were Syrians who had been working in Beirut.

She said the situation at the border was compounded by Syrian authorities, who were not allowing people to gain entry to the country unless they had changed money at a bank at the border.

She and her husband flew out of Damascus on Saturday morning - and said she was thought group of Spanish people were flown out on a plane chartered by the Spanish government.

She said she wants to know why the British government have not organised such a flight. Her 77-year-old mother-in-law, a British national, is currently in a village north of Beirut waiting to be evacuated.


Susannah Graham, from Brighton, had been working in Beirut for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) working in a Palestinian refugee camp.

She had initially been told that because she was not a full-time aid staff member of the UN she would not be eligible for evacuation.

"I am covered by the British Embassy, however," she said. "I'm confident if they come I will be evacuated, but I have Australian friends who are not so lucky."

Ms Graham had been living in the south-east of Beirut, near areas controlled by Hezbollah. After the attacks started she fled to a Christian village in the hills north of Beirut.

She said it was not near any Hezbollah strongholds but that it was a "fallacy that Israel is attacking only Hezbollah strongholds. They have attacked the harbour in Jounieh, it's a port, in a Christian area".

She said where she had fled to "there's nothing here to bomb" but said she was still afraid because she felt nowhere was safe.

From the window of the apartment she was staying at, she said she could see all of the city, and said plumes of smoke were still rising form the bombed fuel tanks at Beirut airport.

"The rumour is the Israelis are going to bomb the roads to the north. I think people are desperate to go but you need to be a bit sensible."

She said people felt the situation was going to get worse after Hezbollah rockets killed eight Israelis in an attack on the city of Haifa.

She said she felt countries with influence over Israel had not done enough to try and force a ceasefire.

"I just wish those people that could exert pressure on Israeli and haven't could stay here for a night and see what it's like - Tony Blair and his family," she said.