Lebanon escalation triggers concern

As Greece expressed «serious concern» over the Israeli attacks on Lebanon, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday that it is on standby and ready to evacuate any of the 2,500 Greeks in the country. Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said that the government is in regular contact with officials stationed in Lebanon and with the embassies of surrounding countries. «Up until now, there have been no reports of Greek citizens being injured in Lebanon. We have not received any requests from Greeks to leave the country,» he said. Cyprus said yesterday that it was evacuating 75 Cypriots from Lebanon on a plane from Syria and that other EU citizens could join the flight if they wanted to. Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros urged the militant group Hezbollah to release two Israeli soldiers held hostage. «Greece expresses its serious concern and is intensely troubled. It is vital to stop the (situation from) worsening, Hezbollah must immediately release the soldiers taken hostage,» he said. In what is being described as the worst crisis in the Middle East for years, a massive Israeli onslaught against Lebanon has left at least 53 civilians dead since Wednesday following the capture of two Israeli soldiers in attacks by Hezbollah. Israeli Ambassador to Greece Ram Aviram told a press conference yesterday that the capture of the soldiers was «an act of war.» The ambassador added that conditions for peace to be restored in the region include freeing the soldiers and disarming Hezbollah forces.