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Last Updated: Friday, 21 July 2006, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Britons escape Lebanon 'trauma'
Evacuees from HMS Bulwark
Bulwark's staff were charged with entertaining the children
About 1,300 British nationals have arrived in Cyprus after being evacuated from Lebanon on a Royal Navy ship.

Shortly after HMS Bulwark arrived in Limassol, Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman visited the vessel to thank the crew for their hard work.

He said the passengers finally felt safe after having been through "a hell of a trauma".

The evacuees will fly back to the UK from RAF Akrotiri later, joining the hundreds who have already returned.

The violence was sparked last week when Hezbollah militants captured two Israeli soldiers.

The UK has refused to back calls from the United Nations for an immediate ceasefire.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told the BBC that a more durable and long-term solution needed to be found.

Map of Cyprus

And she denied claims that intervention by the US could stop the bloodshed.

"The people who have the answer to a stop of violence, now this minute, in their hands, are the people who hold those kidnapped Israeli soldiers," she said.

Anti-war protesters are planning 11 demonstrations in cities around the UK this weekend to register their opposition to Israel's actions in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, local authorities are preparing for the return of the evacuees, with various council teams prepared to meet them at a reception centre in Gatwick Airport.

Ministers have confirmed that dual nationals will have the same entitlements as British citizens when they arrive in the country.

And the prime minister's spokesman praised the "magnificent efforts" of the Royal Navy in evacuating 3,000 people so far.

Banned cleric

Evacuated Britons on HMS Bulwark were joined by several hundred foreign nationals.

The boredom of their 12-hour journey was relieved by screenings of Harry Potter films in the officers' quarters and handouts of sweets.

I never thought I would want to get back to Beirut, but now my life has changed
Angela Quartermaine
Evacuee

Captain Clive Johnstone said the passage had gone "excellently".

"It has been quite fun, the crew have got the immediate interaction with the passengers and hopefully people will have had a good experience."

Among those who tried to board the ships was radical preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed, who was banned from Britain last year.

He said he had been turned back by officials because he did not have a British passport.

Friday's rescue efforts came a day after HMS York transported hundreds of people from the country.

Others who were trapped in the southern port of Tyre, which has been hit by Israeli air-strikes, were being evacuated on a UN-chartered ferry.

'Surreal experience'

Some 687 British nationals have already returned to Britain after being rescued from Lebanon.

Angela Quartermaine, a 23-year-old student from Macclesfield in Cheshire, was among 60 evacuees who touched down at Manchester Airport early on Friday and said her experience had been "surreal".

Any minute a bomb could be going off next to you
Charles Salmon

"I never thought I would want to get back to Beirut, but now my life has changed," she said.

Trudy Hindi, a 41-year-old mother of three, was also evacuated to Cyprus and is waiting to return to her home in Bridgend, south Wales.

She said bombs had landed close to where she and her daughters were staying which was "pretty frightening".

She said she was glad to leave, but that leaving her frail parents-in-law in Lebanon had been "really hard".

More than 330 Lebanese people and 34 Israelis have died in fighting in the past ten days. Most of the fatalities have been civilians.

The UK Foreign Office can be contacted on 020 7008 1500, or the embassy in Beirut on +961 1 990400.


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