- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., in cooperation with federal authorities, this morning opened Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport as a repatriation center for Americans evacuating Lebanon.

“Hundreds of American citizens have been abruptly displaced from Lebanon, and the Ehrlich administration is committed to helping them,” said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican. “We are fully prepared to provide the appropriate assistance to these citizens during this difficult time.”

The first of three flights, each carrying more than 200 people, is expected to arrive tomorrow at the airport.

As many as 800 evacuees from Lebanon are expected to arrive in Maryland this week.

Hostilities erupted between Lebanon and Israel when Hezbollah fighters kidnapped Israeli soldiers and bombed northern areas of the Jewish state. Israel has retaliated with air strikes on Lebanese targets, including Beirut.

The State Department has recommended that Americans evacuate Lebanon because of the escalating violence.

Americans gathered in Beirut seeking to flee from the bombings have grown increasingly frustrated as U.S. Embassy officials have scrambled to arrange for their transportation.

Jeffrey D. Feltman, U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, said as many as 1,000 Americans will be evacuated from Lebanon beginning today.

Mr. Ehrlich designated BWI as a repatriation center in response to a request from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The governor directed several state agencies to mobilize resources to aid the returning Americans.

Maryland’s Department of Human Resources and the state Emergency Management Agency are coordinating the repatriation services for the Americans flying in from Cyprus.

The evacuees will be met by Red Cross representatives and provided with medical assistance and other services.

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