By Emil Danielyan
The Armenian government pledged on Wednesday to send humanitarian assistance to Lebanon as the number of people arriving in Armenia from the war-devastated country continued to rise.
A government statement said Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s cabinet will allocate on Thursday an unspecified amount of medicines, tents and fire-fighting equipment to the Lebanese authorities and ship them to Beirut via Syria later in the day. It said the aid will be provided in response to the Lebanese leadership’s appeal to the international community to help hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the two-week Israeli bombardment.
Details of the relief operation were discussed at a meeting of senior Armenian officials chaired by Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian. The statement cited Deputy Foreign Minister Gegham Gharibjanian as telling the officials that more than 550 people have been evacuated to Armenia since Israel launched its onslaught on Lebanon on July 12. He said another 120 Lebanese residents are due to arrive in Yerevan on a special flight from Aleppo, Syria on Thursday.
Most of the evacuees are Armenian nationals, the others being mainly ethnic Armenian citizens of Lebanon. In Gharibjanian’s words, 49 Lebanese and two residents of Israel have applied for and will be granted asylum in Armenia.
The government in Yerevan announced shortly after the start of Israeli military action that all Lebanese fleeing the conflict zone will be able to take refuge in Armenia for at least three months. The measure was primarily intended for members of the Lebanese-Armenian community.
The cash-strapped government has not promised any financial aid to the arriving evacuees, though. But it said on Wednesday that it will look into ways of helping those of them who have no relatives and can not support themselves in Armenia.
(GI-Photolur photo: A Lebanese woman cries as she holds babies in the basement of the hospital in Tabinin, some 7km north of the Israeli-Lebanese border.)