About 11,500 people flee Lebanon to Cyprus
Around 11,500 people, most of them foreigners, arrived in Cyprus, fleeing Lebanon where Israel kept up a massive offensive against Lebanon's Hezbollah guerillas, a senior Cypriot official said in Nicosia on Thursday.
Cypriot Foreign Minister George Lillikas announced the latest figure in a statement after a meeting at the Cypriot Foreign Ministry in the presence of cabinet members and police chiefs.
"Today (Thursday), between 4,000 to 8,000 foreign and Cypriot nationals are expected to arrive at Cypriot ports," the minister said, adding that the number might rise further.
He said that Cyprus had asked other European countries to open up their borders and help evacuate the people who left Lebanon and reached Cyprus.
Moreover, the Cypriot government has requested more aircraft to transfer the foreign evacuees back to their homelands, said the statement.
Meanwhile, Lillikas clarified that there was no flow of Lebanese refugees into Cyprus yet, but said that such possibility would be examined with the EU and the UN in order to coordinate reactions to such a situation.
"Based on the European policy, if there is a flow of refugees from Lebanon, other European countries will have to accommodate them as well," said Lillikas.
Regarding the cost of the evacuation, the foreign minister said that the Cypriot government paid part of the cost, but added that most of the cost was covered by the countries whose nationals are affected.
He also noted that if the cost became unbearable, Cyprus would ask for help from other countries.
Tens of thousands of foreign nationals have been fleeing Lebanon as Israel stepped up bombardments across Lebanon on a ninth day of a massive offensive.
The violence erupted on July 12 when the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed eight during a cross-border attack.
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