By Hovannes Shoghikian
Nearly 800 people, most of them Lebanese citizens of Armenian descent, have been evacuated to Armenia since the start of Israel’s war with Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, a senior official said on Thursday.
Vahan Ter-Ghevondian, the Armenian ambassador in Beirut, told RFE/RL that 300 of them are citizens of Armenian, while the others are mainly members of Lebanon’s 80,000-strong ethnic Armenian community.
Virtually all of them have been airlifted to Yerevan on special flights from Syria partly financed by the Armenian government. The government pledged to help its citizens and co-ethnics flee Lebanon shortly the start of the Israeli onslaught on July 12. It also said all Lebanese citizens fleeing the deadly air strikes will be able to take refuge in Armenia for at least three months.
Speaking by phone from Beirut, Ter-Ghevondian said that although some 100 more Lebanese residents are due to arrive in Armenia early next week, the influx of evacuees has considerably decreased. He said Israeli air attacks on the main Lebanese highway leading to Syria is not the main reason for that. “But I can’t say this is so because the situation here has improved,” added the diplomat.
Most Lebanese Armenians live in Christian neighborhoods of Beirut that have not been targeted by the Israeli air force so far. Yeghia Jerejian, an ethnic Armenian member of Lebanon’s parliament, told RFE/RL from the Lebanese capital that none of them was among some 1,000 people killed in the bombardment.
According to the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan, there were an estimated 1,200 Armenian citizens living in Lebanon before the outbreak of the war.