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Britain set for largest evacuation since Dunkirk
Britain is preparing to stage its largest evacuation since Dunkirk in 1940 as violence increases in Lebanon.
More than 22,000 people holding British and dual nationality, as well as some Commonwealth citizens, are likely to be taken out of the conflict area. The mission will have to negotiate its way past an Israeli naval blockade and risk being caught up in crossfire.
The coast of Lebanon has already experienced intense action. An Israeli boat was hit by an unmanned Hizbollah aircraft and missiles launched by the militia have also hit cargo ships. At the same time, Israeli gunboats have kept up a relentless pounding of targets onshore.
The Government has also revealed that British troops will be part of any United Nations force sent to southern Lebanon. At the G8 summit in St Petersburg, Tony Blair, along with the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, has been among the leading proponents of sending such a force.
The evacuation plans were upgraded yesterday with the Army's spearhead battalion preparing to move to the Mediterranean. Elements of the headquarters company of the 2nd Battalion The Light Infantry have moved to South Cerney, Gloucestershire, in readiness to fly to Cyprus to set up reception facilities for evacuees.