Stalemate on High Seas: Still No Fuel for Beirut Hospital

Aug 4, 2006 1:42pm

The oil tanker Afrodite is still wading in the Mediterranean, and the American University Hospital is still waiting for its shipment of fuel. A U.N. official in Beirut confirmed that the ship is ready to deliver its cargo, but that its captain won’t pull in unless it gets a guarantee of safe passage from the Israeli military. Israel has agreed to let the ship pass, but so far has not provided the written assurance of safety that the Afrodite’s captain wants. Israel has granted a humanitarian corridor through its embargo of Lebanon for the purpose of transporting aid to the Lebanese. ABC News has called the Israeli Embassy several times to ask what it would take to resolve the stalemate, but their spokesman was repeatedly unavailable for comment. As reported on the Blotter, American University Hospital near downtown Beirut is running low on fuel and at risk of shutting down operations. With infrastructure damaged, Lebanese energy supplier Electricite du Liban has ceased to provide steady service. Bill Hoffman, an American University spokesman in Washington D.C., told ABC News today that yesterday’s damage to bridges and roads in northern Lebanon cut off the last clear ground route for the transport of oil and supplies. This makes it much harder, Hoffman said, to keep the hospital operating. "[American University] President John Waterbury has informed high-ranking American officials at the State Department and Department of Defense that he’s preparing to transfer non-emergency patients out of the hospital to conserve energy. Where they’ll go is far from clear — there’s no hospital in better shape than we are," Hoffman added.  Meanwhile, alumni in the United States are reacting with concern to the possible shutdown of the American University Hospital, seeing it as a threat to the university they love and the healthcare it provides. "AUB is not just another hospital. It represents the best of the American people to the Lebanese people," said Dr. Jacques Tohme, a graduate of the university’s medical school and former head of the alumni association. 

"If truly Israel is saying the war is not against the people of Lebanon, this is a chance for them to show they really mean it." 

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