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1976: Westerners evacuated from Beirut

VIDEO : Westerners and Lebanese escape Beirut

Nearly 300 Westerners, mostly Americans and Britons, have been moved from Beirut and taken to safety in Syria by the US military.

An American navy ship rescued about 270 people, including 97 Britons, from the war-torn Lebanese city after attempts to move them by road were ruled out as too dangerous.

Most of the refugees on the beach were Americans responding to their government's call to leave Beirut following the murder of the American ambassador Francis Meloy.

The operation was originally planned to take the form of a road convoy to Damascus, organised by the UK.

The British embassy in Beirut had been the assembly point for Britons, Americans and other foreigners wanting to get out of Lebanon after 14 months of civil war.

But on two occasions the convoy was held up by the British Charge d'Affaires, Geoffrey Hancock.

He said: "We have heard from the escort element the conditions along the route today are insufficiently secure for the journey to be made safely".

When the convoy was postponed for a second day after the Beirut perimeter came under heavy fire overnight, the American navy took control of the operation.

As the tourists waited for the American landing ship to arrive, some completed necessary paperwork for the trip while others went searching for food and water, having been told they needed enough to last 40 hours at sea.

When the ship finally came the US military appeared anxious to keep a low profile.

People began embarking, surrounded by armed Palestinians and Lebanese leftists, but their spirits remained high.


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