Saturday, July 15, 2006

British war ships may head for Lebanon...

To aid in evacuation, two British warships have been given the order to "make ready" and could be on their way to Lebanon within 24 hours, according to the BBC:
Royal Navy ships head for Lebanon
HMS Illustrious
HMS Illustrious is currently in Gibraltar
Defence Secretary Des Browne has given orders for HMS Illustrious and HMS Bulwark to "make ready" for operations off Lebanon.

The pair will depart as soon as necessary, possibly within 24 hours.

No order for evacuating UK citizens has yet been given, but ministers and defence staff are considering a plan to evacuate those trapped in Lebanon.

It comes as Israel has stepped up its strikes in Lebanon after Hezbollah militants seized two Israeli soldiers.

'Contingency planning'

HMS Illustrious is currently in Gibraltar and HMS Bulwark is close to Barcelona in Spain.

The decision whether to proceed with an evacuation plan has not yet been taken and no orders have been given.

Marines aboard

BBC defence correspondent Paul Wood has said that 24 hours to get ready for sailing would be considered a "short turnaround" for the two ships.

He said that damage to the airport and port in Beirut meant it would be "difficult to get in".

"Any evacuation would be carried out in concert with other countries, led by the US," he added.

Mr Wood said HMS Bullwark had a contingent of 500 marines, which could be used to make beaches safe in the event of any evacuation.

HMS Illustrious has helicopters and fighter bombers on board, which again could be used to aid any evacuation.

  • British and dual nationality citizens contacting the Foreign Office in London should call 0207 008 1500.

  • (Filed under Israel, Middle East War)