Tyre, Lebanon evacuation on track, says military

A ship is set to pick up stranded Canadians in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre on Wednesday, a day after Canadian soldiers helped more than a dozen people flee the same city.

A ship is set to pick up stranded Canadians in the hard-hit Lebanese city of Tyre on Wednesday, a day after Canadian soldiers helped hundreds of people flee the same city.

The Canadian-chartered vessel, which can carry up to 1,000 people, will remove those who can't make the dangerous journey through bombed-out southern Lebanon to Beirut, the main evacuation point from the country.

Tyre has been heavily hit during Israel's 14-day air assault on the Lebanese-based militant organization Hezbollah.

The ship will arrive in Tyre on Wednesday morning local time and depart "before last light," said Lt.-Col. Shane Brennan.

Brennan saidhe doesn't know how many Canadianswill make it toTyre, but added there will beplenty ofstaff, including medical, logistics, planning and communications experts.

"We don't put anyone in a position where they're going to be at risk, that could endanger them or their people," said Brennan.

Canadians in the region have been told to get to the port and bring their passports, one piece of carry-on luggage and enough medication to last three days.

It's not clear whether it will take evacuees to Cyprus or Mersin, Turkey.

Canadian soldiers rescue mission

On Monday, a small team of Canadian soldiers ventured into Hezbollah territory as part of a German-led mission to remove about 300 people, including 15 Canadians, from Tyre.

The group was hustled onto the Cypriot ship Princess Marissa, which remained anchored offshore to avoid bomb blasts in the region.

Ship crew members said they could smell the plumes of smoke from bombed-out buildings as Israeli forces pounded a series of targets with a half dozen bombs apiece.

"Here we saw bombs 500 metres away," said Yiannis Ioannou, a cook on the ship who prepared a buffet for the evacuees.

"In Beirut, you see nothing. (In Tyre) you see (bombs) always hitting the same targets. Always six bombs hitting the same place."

Ship Capt. Kyriakos Papaevrides said the trip was dangerous but necessary. "Somebody has to go," he said. "Somebody has to help the people. We put ourselves in danger to help the people."

Beirut exodus slows

More than 8,000 Canadians have fled the country in the past six days, far short of the 39,000 registered Canadians in Lebanon.

As a result, the Foreign Affairs Department announced that starting Tuesday, anyone showing up at the port of Beirut with a valid Canadian passport will be offered safe passage. Those stranded had previously been asked to wait for the Canadian Embassy to call.

Southern Lebanon and Beirut have been the target of 14 days of Israeli airstrikes, triggered when Hezbollah militants raided an Israeli army post. Eight soldiers were killed in the attack and two were captured.

Hezbollah responded to the Israeli military campaign with daily rocket attacks on northern Israeli communities.

With files from the Canadian Press.