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Israel allows humanitarian aid into Lebanon

Tens of thousands had beaten her there, and the city was teetering under the weight of refugees.

india Updated: Jul 23, 2006 04:56 IST

Zeinab Haidar fled her bombed-out home in the back of a pickup truck without a single possession, weaving along mountain roads until she finally reached a pocket of safety.

Tens of thousands had beaten her there, and the city was teetering under the weight of refugees.

More than 35,000 people streaming north from the heart of the war zone had swamped the southern port city of Sidon. Fuel, food and some medicines were already tight for Sidon's own population of 100,000 and nearly impossible to replenish.

"There are no supplies reaching us, not from other nations, nor from the Lebanese government," said Mayor Abdul-Rahman al-Bizri, whose city was so packed that Palestinian refugees were taking in Lebanese refugees.

Sidon was only one face of the mounting humanitarian crisis across Lebanon. An 11-day-old Israeli blockade has prevented new supplies from coming in, and bombardment has made roads unusable or too dangerous to distribute supplies to the south, where Israel is battling Hezbollah guerrillas.

The Israeli military announced on Saturday that it would loosen its blockade to allow humanitarian ships into Beirut's port and defined the coastal road heading north to Tripoli as a land corridor for aid.

It also said it would allow aid flights into Beirut, though the airport is too damaged by missiles for planes to land.

But Israel did not define a safe passage route to the south -- where the bombardment is heaviest, the roads most dangerous and the need most extreme.