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American citizens waiting to be evacuated
American citizen Insajam Al-Fares, left, holding her 8-year-old daughter Nadia Abou Saleh, as they wait near the U.S. embassy north of Beirut for their names to be called for evacuation on July 19, 2006.
(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/AP Wide World)

Caught in the Cross Fire
By Genet Berhane

Tensions are high in the Middle East, as the conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah, a rebel group in Lebanon, enters its eighth day.

Caught in the cross fire, many Americans in Lebanon are looking for a way to get out of the region. Government officials insist that help is on the way.

"Those Americans who wish to leave will obviously go out," said Nicholas R. Burns, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

There are approximately 25,000 American citizens in Lebanon. So far, about 350 people have been evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, a port city in Lebanon, to Cyprus, a neighboring island. In Cyprus, commercial aircraft will be available to provide transport home.

According to State Department officials, it is expected that the U.S. will evacuate an estimated 7,000 Americans from Lebanon by Thursday. Transport will be provided by helicopters and chartered ships. Americans who wish to leave have been instructed to register with the American Embassy.

The Attacks

The conflict began last Wednesday, when Hezbollah militants abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed three others in a raid. (Both Israel and the U.S. consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization.) In response, Israel staged a series of attacks and began to target regions in Lebanon that are connected to Hezbollah.

According to Israel Defense Forces, Hezbollah has fired approximately 750 rockets into Israel since the start of the conflict.

Israeli officials are demanding the safe release of the Israeli soldiers, while Hezbollah demands that they be exchanged for Lebanese prisoners held in Israel.

More than 300 people have been killed as a result of this conflict. The world watches to see whether a cease-fire can be reached.

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Check out this National Geographic site to learn more about Lebanon. You'll find photos, maps, and videos at this informative site.

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