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Israel to allow aid into Lebanon

UNITED NATIONS -- Aid supplies will be allowed into Lebanon amid the fighting, an Israeli envoy said yesterday, a day after the United Nations warned of a growing humanitarian crisis in the war-ravaged country.

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said he expected a humanitarian corridor for food, medicine and other supplies to be opened later yesterday or today.

UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland addressed the Security Council and called on Israel to accept and guarantee safe passage for humanitarian goods into northern Lebanon by road, into the ports of Beirut, Tripoli, and Tyre for sea cargo, and into Beirut airport for air shipments.

Whether Israel is prepared to meet these demands remains to be seen. Gillerman said details were still being worked out.

As part of its 10-day bombardment of Lebanon, Israel has imposed an air and sea blockade that has cut off transport links, and the government has come under international pressure to get food, medicine and humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people.

Gillerman first told reporters that Israel had agreed to open a humanitarian corridor and then announced it to the UN Security Council. ``In spite of the very difficult situation on the ground," Gillerman said in his speech, ``Israel is acutely aware of the humanitarian situation, and I wish to inform the council that I have just received official confirmation from Israel that further to the corridor allowing evacuation from Lebanon, a two-way, in-and-out humanitarian corridor to meet the needs of those affected on the Lebanese side has been established."

Lebanon's special envoy Nouhad Mahmoud, who listened to Gillerman's speech, accused Israel of destroying his country and demanded that Israel pay to rebuild it. ``We just heard the distinguished representative of Israel informing us that they have accepted a safe corridor for the humanitarian assistance to the victims of the aggression carried out by his country -- as if we are supposed to salute and pay tribute to the compassionate feelings they have," Mahmoud told the council.

``But the whole world has witnessed how the Israeli military machine has turned Lebanon into ruins," he said.

Egeland, who was to be dispatched to Lebanon by Secretary-General Kofi Annan later yesterday, said more than 500,000 Lebanese are believed to be affected.

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